Field Notes

Abandoned newborns: 'There is always an option'

Abandoned newborns: 'There is always an option'
The recycling center where the infant's remains were found. KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - “We claim this baby.”

Police Officer Marci Jackson is talking about the baby that was found by an employee of a recycling center in North Portland on May 28. The girl had died shortly after being born - her umbilical cord was torn, but still attached.

Born just over five pounds, it was determined she had taken some breaths before dying. Whether she was murdered or allowed to die (a distinction that not all will see) remains to be determined.

“What is certain is this child never had a chance,” says Jackson.

In her 20 years as a police officer, Jackson – who heads the bureau’s Crisis Response Team that responds to traumatic events to lend assistance to victims and their families – has seen many difficult things.

“But not this, this is unusual,” she says, her voice cracking. “This is not something you see, this is not usual in anyway. It’s not something you should ever see.”

Jackson says that as tragic as the event is she wants to be able to use it as an opportunity to teach people about the importance of life.

“This child’s mother, whoever she is, had to think that she had no other options,” says Jackson. “And that simply isn’t the case. We need to do a better job of reminding people of that, of the fact there is always an option."

“There are Safe Haven programs she could have gone to. She could have brought that baby to my home, put her in my hands. There are options I wish she had known about, that I hope others will know about. We need to make sure that people know. Life is too precious.”

The Safe Haven law allows a baby up to 30 days old to be dropped off at specified places like a hospital, police precinct and fire station, no questions asked. 

Jackson says that “every day we are fighting for young people’s lives, trying to save them, give them a chance. We have a responsibility as a community to receive and support the people who need our help, to let them know that we are here for them, that they are not alone.

“If I could talk with the mother who abandoned this child, I would first hold her. She has to be hurting. “

Jackson says the woman needs to know that while she did something wrong, something horrible, she is not being condemned.

“She needs to know that people do see her as a person who is loved, as someone’s daughter. As someone in pain that people want to help. I want to be able to help her and by helping her, to help others.”

Jackson is working with city officials to make sure the girl has a proper burial.

“We want to make sure she has her place,” says Jackson who has been in contact with a funeral home, which in turn has been in contact with a cemetery. Details are still being worked out.

“We would like to have a graveside ceremony, something that a lot of people could attend, something to bring the community together to let the world know that no one – no matter how small – will be forgotten.

“Everyone deserves a chance.”

Crime Stoppers Oregon is offering a $1,000 reward that leads to an arrest in the case. Police are asking the public to help them figure out how the baby ended up at the recycling center. They say the mother may have sought medical attention.

Tips can be left anonymously on the Crime Stoppers website, you can text CRIMES (274637) with 823HELP in the subject line followed by the tip information, or you can call 503-823-HELP (4357).