With NJ abortion and safe-surrender laws, why kill a newborn?
NEPTUNE — A high school student who was charged with first-degree murder after she and her boyfriend were accused of leaving the body of their newborn son in a dumpster had safe and legal options if she believed that she could not keep her baby.
New Jersey is among a handful of states that allow minors to get abortion services without parental notification. New Jersey also allows anyone to drop off newborns at certain safe locations without providing their names or facing any legal consequences.
But it's not clear whether the Neptune High School senior was aware of these laws.
Jada M. McClain, 18, is accused of suffocating her child and then calling her boyfriend, Quaimere Mohammed, 19, to dispose of the remains.
The body of the boy, who McClain named Legend, has not been recovered.
Prosecutors say McClain told investigators that she hid her pregnancy from her family and took pills, drank alcohol and smoked marijuana in an effort to kill the fetus.
Investigators said McClain told them that she had considered getting an abortion but she believed that she would have needed to get a parent’s permission when she was 17.
In fact, New Jersey does not require abortion providers notify or seek permission from a parent or guardian of a pregnant teenager. In the 1990s, the state passed a law requiring parental notification, but the rule was struck down in 2000 by the state Supreme Court.
New Jersey and New York are among 12 states that do not require parental involvement, according to Planned Parenthood. Washington, D.C., also does not. Pennsylvania requires permission from at least one parent. Delaware requires that a parent or grandparent or a mental health professional be notified at least 24 hours before an abortion if the girl is younger than 16. In both states, a judge can excuse this requirement but a court intervention can take time, which is why Planned Parenthood recommends that minors “take action right away” because various states limit abortions after a certain number of weeks.
Parental notification also is not required in New Jersey for emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and care, testing for sexually transmitted diseases or infections, or treatment for drugs or alcohol. Minors over 13 do not need parental consent for HIV testing although a doctor who suspects that a minor younger than 13 was sexually abused can request an HIV test without parental consent.
The Physicians For Reproductive Choice and Health recommend that minors keep their parents or guardians informed if possible, and caution that healthcare providers may breach confidentiality if cases involving abuse, potential of self-harm or issues related to insurance and billing.
Options for families continue after the birth of a child. New Jersey’s Safe Haven law allows a family to anonymously give up a child who is less than 30 days old at any police station, hospital, fire department or first aid squad that is open 24-7, with no questions asked and no threat of criminal prosecution as long as the infant has not been abused.
Since the law went into effect in 2000, 71 babies have been safely surrendered.
The law, however, has not ended homicides of newborns.
Last year, four infants were abandoned in Trenton, Jersey City and Highland Park in the same month — three of them died.
Lawmakers are trying to require that school districts teach students about the Safe Haven law as part of the health curriculum. In June, the state Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan 35-0 vote but the Assembly version of the bill remains in committee.
First lady Tammy Murphy and the Department of Children and Families have been promoting the law on TV, radio and online.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.