Push for more baby boxes moves forward

By Tanner Nicholson
The StatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — One lawmaker is advocating for more “baby boxes” that would allow an individual to anonymously surrender a newborn.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, introduced Senate Bill 123 Monday. The bill would expand the availability of newborn safety incubators, also known as baby boxes, across the state.

Only two departments currently have a baby box installed, including one in Indianapolis. Mothers are able to simply drop off the baby and press a button to notify the department that an infant is in the box.

The boxes are tested on a monthly basis to monitor security functions. Under SB 123, fire departments that operate a baby box would receive civil immunity for an act or omission related to the device if the device meets all specified requirements and the omission is not gross negligence.

The bill passed the Senate Civil Law Committee, 6-1. Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, voted no on the measure, citing the bill’s immunity language.

“You have to be careful when you give immunity to anybody for anything,” Taylor said. “The standard that we usually use is gross negligence and willful misconduct. If you do something that’s just heinous, put somebody’s life in danger, then you don’t get immunity. And the way I read the bill, they are immune even if it is just a mistake.”

The state’s current Safe Haven Law allows an individual to anonymously surrender an infant without risk of arrest or prosecution as long as the infant is surrendered to a hospital or an establishment with emergency services.

The proposed law would allow individuals to surrender them anonymously by placing the child in the box. The Indiana Department of Child Services then would take the abandoned infants into custody.

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

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2 Responses to Push for more baby boxes moves forward

  1. Baby Boxes Don’t Work and Are Dangerous for Mom and Baby

    Please understand that I am passionate about wanting to do all that I can to save each and every baby from illegal abandonment and at first blush coming out against Baby Boxes may not seem to make sense.

    After you think it through, I hope you will agree. Instead let’s work together to create awareness to reach the women that need to learn that the Baby Safe Haven laws exist: Signs at Safe Havens, teaching about the law in Health Education classes, publishing the 800 crisis number, web sites, offering other services that are needed for a confused pregnant woman, and many other proven measures that actually work.

    Baby Boxes may be well intended but misguided. It opens a Pandora’s Box and will have unintended consequences. There is strong opposition to the idea of placing the boxes in hospitals, police and fire stations, churches and other nonprofit organizations.
    Some of those reasons are:
    1) Baby Boxes remove the chance for a mother to be offered medical care and supportive services. About 25% of parents who come to a Safe Haven, initially planning to use the Safe Haven Law, when given the opportunity to talk about options, chose to either made an adoption or parenting plan.

    2) Baby Boxes strip away any chance of personal contact with a person, which means the parent is completely alone, contributing to her being frightened. She does not have the comfort of actually placing her baby into the arms of anyone. Instead, the idea that what she is doing is ‘bad’ and something that she should feel ashamed about is reinforced

    3) Baby Boxes will add tremendous confusion as to where and what is considered a Safe Haven location. There are so many bad possible out comes. Imagine a mother coming to a hospital, looking for a Baby Box, but that hospital doesn’t have one. She becomes frustrated, confused, and leaves the baby alone, abandoned. Will the baby survive? The mother is bleeding, in need of medical help that she does not get. How will people feel when she is found having bled to death?

    4) Many women are looking for a safe delivery of their baby in the hospital. Baby Boxes will confuse hopes for a safe delivery by suggesting that her only option is to leave the baby in a Baby Box.

    5) Many States offer a packet of information for the relinquishing parent. The packet may provide a request for medical information and explain parental rights under the law. Using Baby Boxes prevents the parents from receiving this important information.

    6) The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for a ban on the boxes in Europe and has urged countries to provide family planning and other support to address the root causes of abandonments, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell.

    7) The Indiana State Department of Health unanimously against using baby boxes.

    8) A big concern came from the Nassau County Police Department and New York City Police Department’s Bureau of Special operations (BSO) known as Homeland Security. Even before 911, the departments had grave concerns about pipe bombs being placed inside one of hem by terrorists and causing catastrophic injuries to doctors, hospital stuff and first responders. In today’s environment we have seen attacks in Boston, California, New York and many more locations throughout the USA. If a terrorist makes a coordinated attack on a hospital, police/fire station, key emergency personal will be killed or critically wounded. Indianapolis, Indiana Homeland Security list over 8,500 potential terror targets. “Baby Boxes” will be added to the list as a high risk location making them a “soft target” and will affect costly increase in the liability insurance at these locations.

    9) And, of course, the cost! Each box will cost approximately $5,000 to build with a plan to install 100. Half a million dollars! What about the cost of installation? Most hospital, fire and police stations are brick or stone buildings, and the installation of would be near impossible. These buildings are built as the strongest structures in the neighborhoods. It would be extremely costly to cut a hole into one of these buildings to place a Baby Box in a prominent place that could be easily found by a woman in crisis. Does Indiana have the money to allocate for this project?

    Think about what that money could do if used for an awareness campaign instead. How many more babies and mothers would be saved by reaching all women? Then comes the question of where the funding will come from. What is this source of the Private Funding is being referred to? Would an adoption agency put up a Baby Box so they’d have more babies for their parents who want to adopt a baby?

    Do you recall the fiasco when Nebraska didn’t carefully weigh the issues when they passed their first Baby Safe Haven law, and the unintended consequences that resulted? They called an emergency session to amend the law. Does Indiana want to be the next fiasco?

    Safe haven programs have saved over 3,500 infants since its conception in 1999. The numbers are increasing each year as more people learn about the law. What is needed are awareness campaigns NOT Baby Boxes.

  2. I have followed the Safe Haven Program since it’s beginning in 1999.Helped start a program in Ky and watched good things happen in each state over the years. I now live in Indiana and believe that since the Safe Haven Program is still evident in the hospitals here, that instead of spending money to install Baby Boxes, am awareness campaign would be a major plus for all, letting those that are in need of the help of this Program know that it is still available and safe relinquishment of an infant is possible and the baby will receive immediate care as well as the mother if needed. No prosecution. The Safe Haven is still a hands on caring program. It still works.

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