by State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles -
Special to the SGN
It breaks the heart to hear about newborns left in a dumpster or behind in a motel room, often by a desperate teenager. What ever was the poor mother thinking about? And how truly tragic for the child who was given no chance -- no chance -- at a start in life.
Every child deserves to be cared for and loved, no matter how he or she was born. It is why, in 2002, I introduced the Newborn Infant Safety Act. This law gives parents safe places -- hospitals and staffed fire stations -- to leave a newborn up to the age of 72 hours. No questions are asked and there is no possibility of arrest for abandonment or endangerment. If a parent wants to leave information about his or her medical history or about the pregnancy, it can be done without coercion or questioning, but it's not required. All I wanted was an attended setting with trained medical staff to accept a newborn.
The law also requires that the receiving staff give the newborn to the custody of state Child Protective Services for potential follow-up and then placement with a foster family.
But I am concerned that the law doesn't reach all those who could benefit, especially parents in more remote parts of the state, where it could be a trip of many miles to reach a hospital or even a staffed fire station. So this session I introduced Senate Bill 5425, which would add federally designated medical clinics to the list of places where a newborn can be brought. It would also direct the state Department of Social and Health Services to track the number and medical condition of surrendered newborns.
It's a heart wrenching decision to give up a child. I want to make sure that a parent can do so without fear of prosecution and harm to the newborn.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles represents the 36th Legislative District.
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