Finding a Safe Haven

Posted by: Courtney Scott  | Monday, June 22, 2015

As a grandfather, nothing brings me more joy than my grandkids. The little ones are a constant reminder of how precious life truly is. My respect for life led me to see what Indiana is doing to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

Too often we hear stories of newborn abandonment with tragic outcomes. According to the Ambulance Medical Technician Children of Hope Foundation, there are roughly 200 abandoned newborns each year throughout the nation. We never want to see these sad headlines, and my heart aches for any parent who feels that they cannot care for their newborn.

All 50 states have what is known as a Safe Haven Law, which allows parents to anonymously relinquish an infant without fear of arrest or prosecution. Under Indiana law, a parent, family member, friend, social worker, minister, priest or any responsible adult may give up custody of a baby less than 30 days old to a hospital emergency room, fire station or police station. The law has served to save the lives of 13 babies in Indiana.

However, since the law’s inception in 2000, Safe Haven Indiana reported that still yet, another 13 babies’ lives were lost because they were improperly abandoned. Currently, if a parent wishes to abandon their child, he or she must walk into an emergency provider facility. For some, the situation is so overwhelming they choose to abandon their child in an otherwise unsafe environment.

In an effort to expand upon Indiana’s Safe Haven law, I co-authored House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1016 this session with the intent of beginning a conversation about the installation of newborn safety incubators, which are temperature controlled devices that lock and notify authorities as soon as a child is placed inside. These incubators provide a safe and completely anonymous method for a parent to relinquish their child.

This summer, the Legislature will study standards and protocols for these devices, and then report their findings before the General Assembly convenes in 2016. These issues are very sensitive and require a great deal of thoughtful consideration and planning before they become law. I am encouraged that the study committee will thoroughly vet this concept to ensure that the incubators provide a life-saving alternative for parents in desperation.

The introduction of newborn safety incubators, along with targeted awareness of the law, could help curtail newborn abandonments in Indiana. Certainly, we will continue to promote options available to parents in difficult situations before they ever have to consider utilizing a newborn safety incubator. While we might not be able to reach everyone in this difficult situation, we can focus our efforts and look for positive alternatives to abandonment, which could help save a life.

To learn more about HEA 1016 and newborn safety incubators, visit iga.in.gov.

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