A new bill in the Florida legislature would extend the age range of the state’s Safe Haven Law, which allows newborn babies to be surrendered at specific locations with no repercussions for the parents.
Currently, a baby can be surrendered within a week of his or her birth at firehouses and hospitals in Florida. That baby must be handed to a firefighter or to medical personnel. Under SB 122, “An act relating to surrendering newborn infants,” the law would be amended to allow for babies up to 30 days old to be handed over to authorities safely.
According to 12 News, the Safe Haven Law was first enacted in Florida 20 years ago, and since then, there has been a decrease in the number of babies abandoned in unsafe locations. Approximately 330 newborns have been safely surrendered in that time.
Over the last two decades, the group Safe Haven for Newborns has helped women and teenage girls who may be struggling with being pregnant or struggling to care for their newborns. They have helped direct women to Safe Haven locations while the women are able to remain anonymous. The organization is against this new bill, however, because in addition to extending the age of the babies being legally surrendered, the bill also calls for the installation of “baby boxes” at firehouses, emergency medical services stations, and hospitals.
With baby boxes, instead of handing the baby directly to firefighters, paramedics, or emergency personnel, mothers would have the option to place the baby in a climate-controlled, ventilated box, which would sound an alarm to notify staff at the firehouse or hospital know that a baby had been placed inside. Safe Haven for Newborns argue that placing the baby in a box instead of handing him or her to a person would make it more difficult to learn about the baby’s background or offer the mother resources.
However, those in support of the bill say some parents are not comfortable giving their babies directly to a person because they want to fully protect their identities. Those parents may end up instead placing their babies in unsafe locations, and those babies may not survive.
The bill was advanced from the Senate health care panel and those in support of it say it provides mothers in distress another option that could help to save even more lives. If it passes through the full legislature, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2021.
Visit the National Safe Haven Alliance for baby safe haven locations nationwide.
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