Things That Matter

A Teen Left Her Newborn in a Dumpster – Here’s What the Infant Safe Haven Law Says To Do if You Need To Surrender a Baby

18-year-old Alexis Avila was charged with attempted murder and felony child abuse after allegedly dropping off her newborn in a dumpster on Friday, January 7 in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Surveillance footage from the nearby Rig Outfitters and Home Store shows Avila getting out of her car and leaving the baby in the dumpster, fleeing the scene.

According to Hobbs Police Interim Chief August Fons, the newborn was wrapped in a towel, placed inside a white plastic bag with trash around it, and finally put in a larger black trash bag before being thrown. Police have since said that Avila confessed to the crime. The act has come as a shock to many in the community and beyond, but many are now calling for more discussions on exactly what to do if someone has a baby they cannot care for. 

As per Hobbs’ police chief, Avila did not know she was pregnant until the day before giving birth, seeking “medical attention” for pain in her abdomen and constipation. By January 7, Avila suffered more abdominal pain and gave birth, cutting the umbilical cord, wrapping the baby in a towel and bags, and leaving them in a dumpster.

Fons relayed that Avila told them she “panicked, did not know what to do or who to call,” the moment she gave birth. Thankfully, the baby was found by people who heard crying noises, alerting police who estimate they were in the dumpster for hours. The child was rushed to the hospital, and is now “stable.”

Meanwhile, the supposed father of the child Stephen Astorga is just 16-years-old, and the two broke up back in August 2021

As of late, conflicting reports have surfaced. While Avila has maintained she did not know she was pregnant, Daily Mail reported that a high school classmate said, “I heard her talk about being pregnant around late September, early October.” He continued, “she never expressed that it was a bad thing that she was pregnant.” While the classmate allegedly explained to the outlet that Avila told ex-boyfriend Astorga that she had actually miscarried, the facts are still he-said, she-said at this point. Daily Mail also reports that Avila dropped out of high school on December 17, which only lends more weight to the argument that perhaps the 18-year-old did not know how she would support her newborn child.

It can be assumed that Avila did not have the resources to understand that she had better options within the law for surrendering her baby. As Avila’s mother Martha Avila, 47, told the Daily Mail, “people can talk and give their opinion. Everybody makes mistakes. People can preach all they want, they can judge all they want but we only care about the judgment of one.”

So what are the proper resources for surrendering a newborn child? Telemundo recently reported on the “safe haven” law, explaining the legal ways someone can surrender a baby they cannot care for, which also assures the safety of the child in question.

The outlet explained that this law allows someone to leave a newborn baby in a safe place with no charges placed against them, and no questions asked. Cinthia Delgado from the organization A Safe Haven For Newborns said, “the biggest impact has been giving mothers the opportunity for [the act] to be anonymous.” 

There are “safe haven baby boxes” in several cities in the country and safe drop-off places may include fire departments, police stations, hospitals, and emergency centers.

Other important things to know? Experts recommend placing a bracelet on the baby and writing any medical conditions it may have, and if leaving the child at a hospital, it is important to go through the emergency entrance. Meanwhile, lawyer Sandra Hoyos says that the process is “100% anonymous,” and that a person’s migratory status is not questioned. However, people should know that different states have differing laws, so informing yourself on your specific state’s laws is crucial. 

While Avila’s baby is now in stable condition, according to the New York Post, Stephen Astorga’s father Oscar is now allegedly seeking custody.

CBS 7 reports that the Rig Outfitters and Home Store’s owner Joe Imbriale has set up a GoFundMe page for the newborn.

Imbriale explains, “I did this to let this child know that there are thousands of people out there that love you, and want to take care of you.” The owner says he will hire a lawyer to make sure only the child has access to the money, while The City of Hobbs is accepting other kinds of donations like diapers, toys, or gift cards at the New Mexico Children Youth & Families Department’s office at 907 West Calle Sur, Hobbs, New Mexico.

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