By Christina Ramey
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana General Assembly is looking to provide more protections for mothers who want to anonymously drop off their newborns.
Senate Bill 246 would extend immunity to mothers who leave their child in a newborn safety device or a baby box. It also provides civil immunity to hospitals who have baby boxes installed.
Parvonary Lynn Stover, legislative director for the Department of Child Services, telling the Judiciary committee why DCS is against baby boxes. Photo by Christina Ramey, TheStatehouseFile.com
A baby box is an electronically monitored box in which a mother can place her baby knowing that the infant will be picked up and put into a foster or pre-adoptive home.
“This is really being done to provide immunity for the mother because otherwise she’s going to be charged with criminal abandonment if she leaves the baby without handing it to another individual. We think in an effort to save babies this is the route that we need to take,” author of the bill Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, told the House Judiciary committee Monday.
Under the Safe Haven law, a mother is allowed to give up their baby within 30 days of the newborn’s birth, no questions asked, at a fire station, police station or hospital emergency room. The baby box allows for more anonymity as the mother wouldn’t be handing out the baby to a person.
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.
Additionally, the mother can push a button located inside the box that will send a third 911 call. Once the door closes, the box locks and cannot be opened by anyone that is not firefighter, police officer or a member of the medical field.
The baby boxes are a last resort, said Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. She has also created a hotline that mothers can call when they are in a crisis, in an effort to prevent the mother from feeling so distressed that she gives up the newborn.
“When they call, it gives us the option to really get her to understand that she probably doesn’t need a baby box,” Kelsey said. “A lot of these mothers who find themselves in a crisis today won’t be in a crisis tomorrow. We just need to get them through this crisis and see what we can do to help them.”
The Indiana Department of Child Services, however, worries 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.
“We’ve been pretty consistent through the whole process that we’re concerned about using devices or boxes as a substitute to surrounding an infant into the arms of a person,” Parvonary Lynn Stover, legislative director for DCS, said.
Holdman said the boxes would not be FDA approved, because it would take seven to 11 years to get approval.
The bill passed out of the committee unanimously and goes to the full House for consideration.
Christina Ramey is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.