Lawmakers hope ‘baby boxes’ will aid distressed mothers

By Lucas Lloyd
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS — Distressed mothers soon could have the option of anonymously dropping off their newborns in box designed to shelter the child until help can arrive.

“Often times the little children are in a basket wrapped in blankets on steps of a church or a local fire station. The mothers care for these children, but they are also not able to do the face-to-face interaction,” Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, told the House before a vote Thursday.

Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, addresses the House chamber. Kirchhofer, one of four representatives who voted no on the bill, intends to stand strong on her views about newborn safety devices.
Photo by Dustin Beach, TheStatehouseFile.com

Under the Safe Haven law, a mother is allowed to give up her baby at a police station, fire station or a hospital emergency room within 30 days of birth, no questions asked.  

The intent of the Senate Bill 246 is to create a more anonymous way for these mothers to surrender their babies. The legislation would extend immunity to mothers who leave their child in a newborn safety device, also referred to as a baby box. It also provides civil immunity to hospitals that have baby boxes installed.

“This law and these devices would give these women anonymity and these babies the opportunity for life and being placed in a loving home,” said Carbaugh.

A mother can place her baby in the electronically monitored box, knowing that the infant will be picked up and put into a foster or pre-adoptive home.

As soon as a mother opens up a baby box, the device immediately sends a 911 call and then sends another 911 call when the newborn is placed inside the box.

“In the past 17 years, we have had 33 safe face-to-face surrenders because of the Safe Haven law. Unfortunately in that same time, we have had 39 babies abandoned who had been found dead,” said Carbaugh. 

The bill passed the House 92-4, but Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, is still not in favor of the proposal.

 “I understand that there is a security system with an alarm, but I would just rather the surrender be in person, already in a hospital and fire department you can do that and it just concerns me for the safety of the baby,” said Kirchhofer, who was not in favor of a similar bill that was discussed had gone through the General Assembly last year.

Monday during a House committee hearing, a Department of Child Services representative said the agency is worried that the baby boxes have not been tested thoroughly. DCS wants the devices to be vetted by the Food and Drug Administration or the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The bill’s author, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said the boxes would not be FDA approved, because it would take seven to 11 years to get approval.

SB 246 now returns to the Senate where the House changes will be reviewed.

Lucas Lloyd is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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