Safe Haven law an option for pregnant teens

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The case of Cherlie LaFleur, a 19-year-old student at McCaskey East High in Lancaster charged with abandoning her deceased fetus in a school bathroom Tuesday, has many people wondering why the young woman didn’t seek out help.

Investigators have arrested and charged LaFleur with concealing the death of a child.

In light of this tragedy, the health community wants teens to know that there are many places to get help when facing an unintended pregnancy.

Every hospital in the state of Pennsylvania is considered a “Safe Haven,” where parents of a newborn up to 28 days old can leave their child, no questions asked, as long as there are no signs of abuse.

“I just urge every parent, teacher, school nurse, phys ed teacher, if you have impact in the way of talking to young people, they need to know about the Safe Haven law,” said Donna Carr, a registered nurse at Lancaster General Health and chair of Lancaster County’s Safe Haven Task Force.

Carr said the law was passed to prevent people from abandoning newborns in unsafe locations, so for Carr, the story of Cherlie LaFleur is especially heartbreaking.

“It breaks your heart because you know that there could have been such a different outcome,” she said. “For both the mother and the baby. And all that we can do is keep trying to get the word out and make sure that we prevent as many of these tragedies as we possibly can.”

Mary Steffy, a registered nurse at Lancaster General Health and nurse manager, says help for pregnant teens is a simple phone call away to 2-1-1.

“As a teenager, you can get care without parental consent,” Steffy said. “So I really encourage anyone who thinks they might be pregnant to call 211, find out where free testing can be done and then they will direct you to free testing and then pre-natal care. You’re not alone. There are a lot of support services that can help you.”

LaFleur is being held at the Lancaster County Prison on $1 million bail. She could face even more serious charges if the autopsy determines her child was born alive.