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Newborn Baby Found Dead Inside Duffel Bag Left Outside Chicago Fire Station Despite Safe Haven Law

·3-min read

A newborn baby was found dead inside a duffel bag outside of a Chicago fire station early Saturday morning, according to officials.

The grim discovery was made around 5 a.m. on Saturday outside of a station on the 1000 block of North Orleans Street, the Chicago Police Department tells PEOPLE in a statement.

The body was found when the firehouse crew went outside that morning to shovel snow, according to The Chicago Tribune. The newspaper also reported that the duffel bag was found covered in snow.

It is not yet clear how long the newborn had been outside.

RELATED: Newborn Baby Found Abandoned in Alaska with Note from Mother Asking to Find Him 'Loving Family'

Fire officials say that there was not an attempt to contact anybody inside the station, an action that could have saved the newborn's life, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Following the discovery, the Chicago Fire Department issued a reminder on social media about the Illinois Safe Haven Law, which makes it possible for newborns to be left with workers at designated safe places with "no questions asked and no judgement given."

"There is no risk to the person being identified or questioned. You can knock on the door, ring the bell, get our attention, we will take the child from you, thank you and you're on your way," Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told the newspaper.

However, Langford stressed that in order for the system to work, it's imperative for parents to "have contact with someone."

"Under no circumstances do we want people to leave children outside. And because of the way the Safe Haven Law is written, you may hand the child directly to a staff member or Fire Department member — they won't ask for your name, they won't ask for identification, they won't question you at all, which is far better than leaving the child outside," Langford added.

Passed in 2001, the law "offers a safe, legal option to unsafe infant abandonment," according to the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, which spent over a decade advocating for the legislation. Per the law, unharmed newborns up to 30 days old may be handed to workers at designated locations — including hospitals, emergency care facilities as well as police and fire stations — without fear of legal prosecution for the parents.

However, the parents of the late newborn will now potentially face arrest and charges, officials told the Tribune.

Chicago police tell PEOPLE that the Cook County Medical Examiner and Area Three Detectives are investigating. No further information has been released at this time.

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"I'm speechless. I don't know what to say anymore. I want to scream and yell," Dawn Geras, founder and executive director of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, told WLS.

"It makes me feel like I failed," Geras added. "There was one other woman out there who didn't know about the law or how to use it, and because of that, there's a dead baby on the door steps of a fire house. It shouldn't happen."

Since the law passed, 143 babies had been taken to a Safe Haven location, according to the Chicago Tribune. However, during the same time period, 87 babies were found illegally abandoned, and 51% of those newborns died.

"Illegal abandonment has decreased over the years, but one baby death like this is way too many," Geras told the newspaper. "People don't think about [the law] until something like this happens."

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