Story of Baby Grace's survival inspires action from lawmakers

Posted at 7:16 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 16:18:03-04

MISSOULA — Earlier this week, KPAX brought you a story about what happened to “Baby Grace,” the newborn girl who was put in a plastic bag, abandoned, and left to die in a dumpster behind a bowling alley in Missoula in 1999.

20 years later, that newborn is now a healthy 20-year-old woman named Nadia who was adopted by a Stevensville family.

Nadia’s story of survival is one that has gone on to save other abandoned newborns. Because of what happened to her, Montana lawmakers were inspired to pass the state’s first Safe Haven Newborn Protection act.

That act allows birth parents to surrender their newborns without legal consequences at any emergency services provider such as a police or fire station or hospital. Governor Judy Martz signed it into law in 2001.

Mike Halligan was one of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill, and he spoke to KPAX about how important it was to get the law passed as soon as possible.

“There was a need for immediate action. I had done most of my legal career in child abuse and neglect and I represented children in a lot of different (ways), so I knew the law very well,” Halligan said. “So, I submitted a bill draft immediately to be able to figure out if we could find a way to protects babies like this. So sure enough, as we checked with other states… There were 12 other states that had laws similar to this. So, what we did was the very best provisions of each one of those laws and build them into Montana law, and that was the bill that was submitted.”

“I knew this was a life or death situation, and everyone realized it, and knew that, and it was going to happen again.”

Halligan expressed how important it is for people to know that this law exists, and how it provides options for birth parents and their children.

The importance of this law was so apparent, that according to Halligan, the bipartisan legislature received unanimous support, and has been used a handful of times in Montana since its passage.

For more on what the Safe Haven Act looks like, visit Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services website.