ALABAMA (WHNT) — A bill introduced in the Alabama legislature last week seeks to make it easier and safer for newborn babies to be surrendered in the state.
The goal of Senate Bill 209 (SB 209), sponsored by Senator Larry Stutts (R-District 6), is to widen the parameters of where an infant can be surrendered and whether those who drop the child off can be prosecuted.
Under the existing “Safe Haven” law, a parent can only surrender an infant 72 hours old or younger to any hospital that has an operating emergency department. Parents who surrender also have an “affirmative defense” to any charges of nonsupport, child abandonment, or endangering the welfare of a child.
If SB 209 is signed into law, parents would be able to surrender an infant to not just a hospital with a functioning emergency department, but also any fire station staffed with full-time firefighters or any law enforcement agency staffed with full-time law enforcement officers, which would then be deemed as safe haven locations.
The bill would also allow a mother who gives birth in a hospital to leave the baby there and refuse to be named on the birth certificate. Hospitals would also be required to accept a surrendered infant, along with providing medical care to the child and presume they qualify for Medicaid.
Further, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would be required to take custody of the child and place them with a licensed child-placing agency.
Parents would not be subject to mandatory reporting or criminal investigations unless child abuse or neglect is suspected. Parents would also have the ability to reclaim the baby until a court terminates parental rights.
Any safe haven location, under the proposed bill, would be immune from liability regarding the infant’s care.
The following would be immune from criminal or civil liability “for acting in good faith in accordance” with SB 209:
- An emergency medical services station
- An emergency medical services provider
- A fire station, or an employee or agent of a fire station
- A law enforcement officer, or an employee or agent of a law enforcement agency
- A hospital, or any of its licensed healthcare professionals
Still, the bill states that “Nothing in this section limits liability for gross negligence.”
Senate Bill 209 will have to pass the Alabama Senate and House before it can be signed into law. You can read the bill in its entirety here.