It’s a story that has swept the news over the past few weeks: A baby in a plastic bag was recovered from the side of the road in Georgia woods. Baby India, as the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is calling her, is expected to make a full recovery after being found on June 6 — and has already inspired calls from hundreds wishing to adopt her.

While India was lucky enough to be found by Georgia first responders, the story could have easily gone a much different way. And, though it’s easy to attack India’s mother for her choice, her story is a reminder of just how adoption continues to be the last — and often unknown — option for many pregnant women and struggling new mothers.

As India’s story shows, this is often at the peril of those women’s babies.

Why Do New Mothers Resort to Such Drastic Measures?

When stories of abandoned infants first come to light, a lot of judgement is placed on the nonexistent mother. How could they do such a thing? Why didn’t they get help?

The fact is, the women who make these choices don’t do so lightly. Often, they are facing harrowing situations that make raising a child impossible. They may be frightened after giving birth unexpectedly, they may face dangerous consequences from the baby’s father and loved ones back at home, or they may be coping with mental illness that puts them and their babies at risk. While stories like baby India’s are terrible, it’s equally important for readers to understand that this kind of mother, more often than not, is not “evil.” She’s scared and not sure where to turn.

The situations that seem easy to us — finding a police officer, going to a hospital — may be impossible for her. She may not have transportation to a medical center or a phone to call for an ambulance. Perhaps she has an outstanding criminal record and is wary of involving first responders.

We’re not here to excuse the actions of these women. As an adoption agency that works with women in many difficult situations, we’re simply trying to create an understanding about exactly how these situations can occur.

But, Doesn’t Georgia Have a Safe Haven Law?

Readers of India’s story are quick to point out one thing: “She could have just gone to a first responder and dropped the baby off safely, no questions asked.”

This is partially true. Georgia, like many other states, has a Safe Haven adoption law. This allows any mother to leave a baby up to 7 days old with an employee of any medical facility (such as a hospital, institutional infirmary, health center or birthing center). The law is designed to prevent situations such as this, giving a mother a chance to safely relinquish her child without legal repercussion of cruelty or abandonment.

However, the law also requires that any mother relinquishing her child provide proof of identity, including her name and address. This can understandably deter many women in difficult situations from seeking help. While this identifying information is used to get health history and aid in the child’s adoption, it’s easy to see how it can be interpreted as a way to punish a woman for her adoption choice.

It’s clear that this mother (and many others like her) isn’t aware of the benefits of this Safe Haven law and the resulting adoption of her child. It’s possible that she had never heard of it at all — or, if she had, was unable to find a local medical facility in her moment of need or was terrified of sharing her personal information with authorities, for fear of future repercussions.

This is why education and spreading awareness is so important. If this mother had simply known about her Safe Haven options, baby India could have been placed safely in the arms of first responders, rather than left to fend for herself in the Georgia woods.

Reminding Women that Adoption is Always an Option

Here at American Adoptions, we’ve seen women from all kinds of situations. Some know adoption is the right choice for their babies right away, while others only contact our agency after learning more about adoption from a crisis pregnancy center, family or friend.

The fact is, adoption is still an underutilized option for many women. If a woman carries a child to term, she often believes her only choice is parenting — not knowing all of the wonderful families waiting to welcome home a child such as hers. It’s on all of us to help spread awareness about the option for adoption, no matter whether a child has already been born. Our adoption specialists are always here to provide the emotional and practical support a woman needs to protect herself and her child, regardless of their situation.

Whether you are facing an unplanned pregnancy or struggling to parent a new baby yourself or know someone who is, our counselors are available to you 24/7 when you call 1-800-ADOPTION. We are here to share the much-needed information about adoption options in hopes of preventing future tragedies that baby India could have easily been.

Anyone interested in placing their child for adoption can contact our specialists online or call us anytime for free at 1-800-ADOPTION.