LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Right to Life is continuing a campaign to promote the Safe Haven Law and Baby Boxes across Arkansas with new billboards in Blytheville and Mena, said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life.
The Blytheville and Mena billboards will run for four weeks starting in April. The Blytheville billboard located at Interstate 55 south of Highway 18 has average weekly impressions of more than 58,000. The Mena billboard located at U.S. Highway 71 north of Dickson Road has weekly average impressions of nearly 30,000.
Mimms said the Arkansas Right to Life Safe Haven Law billboard campaign is funded through donations, adding that the Knights of Columbus organization has been instrumental in providing sponsorship for a number of the billboard locations. Monetary donations by Knights of Columbus members in Mena and Blytheville are making the purchase of billboard space in those locations possible, said Mimms.
Since the first Safe Haven Law billboard campaign began in Harrison in June 2019, billboards have been placed in 13 Arkansas counties. In addition to the newest billboards in Blytheville and Mena, two Safe Haven billboards continue to run throughout the year in Searcy County on Highway 64 north and in Faulkner County on Highway 367/64 east, said Mimms.
The Safe Haven Law, enacted in Arkansas in 2001, is designed to protect babies from being hurt or killed from abandonment by parents who are unwilling or unable to provide parenting. Under the law, a parent may give up an infant anonymously at a hospital emergency room or law enforcement agency, but in 2019 the law was amended to include manned fire stations as a surrender location. The amended law sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Cecile Bledsoe and Rep. Rebecca Petty also approved the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes at surrender locations.
Mimms said the billboard campaign’s purpose is threefold: 1) to educate the general public and parents about the Safe Haven Law, 2) to advise manned fire departments that they are now an official surrender location and 3) to promote the option of Safe Haven Baby Boxes for parents who want or need total anonymity in the safe surrender of their baby.
The first Safe Haven Baby Box in Arkansas was dedicated in September 2019 at Fire Station No. 3 in Benton. Other surrender locations are in the works, said Mimms, with the next location likely being in Jonesboro. Mimms added that hospitals and law enforcement agencies are surrender locations.
Mimms said every state has a Safe Haven Law, but provisions vary from state to state. The Arkansas Safe Haven Law allows a parent to bring a child 30 days old or younger to an official surrender location without facing prosecution of endangerment and abandonment of a child. The law does not prohibit prosecution for abuse or neglect of the child that occurred before the child was given up to a medical provider or law enforcement agency.
Once a baby is surrendered, the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is contacted immediately and the child treated medically. DCFS will assume responsibility for the child and place the child with a “forever” family.
The DCFS maintains a website, public service announcements and materials in both English and Spanish to help educate the public about the Arkansas Safe Haven law.
“Arkansas Right to Life joins the effort with our support of the law to add manned fire departments and the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes in Arkansas through our educational billboard campaign,” said Mimms.
Organizations or individuals wishing to support the Safe Haven Law campaign may visit artl.org/donate or mail a tax-deductible gift to Arkansas Right to Life Educational Trust Fund (note Billboard Campaign in check or online), Box 1697, Little Rock, AR 72203-1697.
For more information or questions at the campaign contact Mimms at (501) 663-4237 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arkansas Right to Life is the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization in Arkansas and the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee.