DEAR ABBY: I am writing to spread the word that the state of Illinois has a "safe haven" law. Instead of taking the drastic step of abandoning a newborn infant, parents need to know that there is an alternative. Babies within three days of birth can be taken to any staffed fire station or hospital. You don't have to give your name -- no police will be called. Your baby will get medical care and be placed for adoption. This "no questions asked" safe alternative is for parents who might otherwise panic and try to hide the birth by abandoning the infant.
If you or anyone you know needs more information, within Illinois call (800) 252-2873. The number is active 24/7. -- CONCERNED IN ILLINOIS
DEAR CONCERNED: California also has a safe-haven law, but because my column appears in papers nationwide, I called my friend Bill Lockyer, attorney general for the state of California, to ask how many other states have similar laws. He informed me that 42 states have such protections; however, the grace period varies in duration. (Some states demand the child must be a newborn; others allow three days, 30 days or 45 days as the grace period.)
Only eight states do not have such a compassionate provision at this time. However, legislation is pending in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. Alaska and Nebraska have no such provision pending. They are far behind the times.
I recommend that concerned citizens in all eight states write or e-mail their legislators and let them know how important such a law is, and that when it has passed, it should be PUBLICIZED. As regrettable as the need for such a law may be, it's better than a child being left to die of exposure in a Dumpster or a restroom by a parent who could not cope with parenthood.
DEAR ABBY: I am a sophomore in high school and the class clown. I crave the spotlight. However, when it comes to giving an oral presentation in front of the class, I clam up, sweat, and get so scared I can hardly speak. It doesn't make sense because I sing in the choir and have taken large roles in school plays -- all in front of huge audiences.
Why is it I'm shy in front of my class, but not in front of a crowd? -- SHY CLOWN IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SHY CLOWN: When you're singing lyrics or reciting lines written by someone else, you assume another personality. It's the mark of a talented performer. However, when you're making a presentation in front of the class, you are being yourself, and the ideas are your own. This makes you feel vulnerable.
Consider this: The next time you do an oral presentation, pretend you're a strong, confident newscaster. I'll bet you ace the assignment.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a relationship with a man I like very much. The problem is he's always laughing, and it makes me uneasy.
My father used to say, "Beware of people who laugh constantly. They usually have something to hide." Every conversation I have with this man is filled with laughter -- even when there's nothing remotely funny.
I need to know if I should be concerned about him. Please help. -- NO LAUGHING MATTER IN FLORIDA
DEAR NO LAUGHING MATTER: It could be a nervous habit, or it could be his way of coping with stress. Bring it to his attention and see what he says. Also, as with any other kind of relationship, listen to your gut. If that little voice keeps whispering that there's something not kosher, find another boyfriend.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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