During the 2000 legislative session, HB 1365, the Safe Place for Newborns Act 2000, was introduced by five members of the Georgia House of Represen-tatives. It passed the House on March 3, but was defeated by the Senate March 22.
HB 360, the Safe Place for Newborns Act 2001, was introduced by six members of the Georgia House of Representatives during last years legislative session. It passed the House on March 7, but was referred by the Senate on the same day.
Score: Senate 2, New-borns 0.
This is not rocket science, but it may ensure the survival of future rocket scientists - if the Georgia Senate ever catches on. Any rocket scientists in that chamber?
Section 1 of the bill proposes amending Title 19 of the Georgia Code by adding Chapter 10A. Paragraph 3 says, It is the express purpose and intent of the General Assembly in enacting this chapter to prevent injuries to and deaths of newborn children that are caused by a mother who abandons the newborn.
Paragraph 4 says, A mother shall not be prosecuted for the crimes of cruelty to a child or abandonment of a dependent child because of the act of leaving her newborn child in the physical custody of an employee, agent, or member of the staff of a medical facility provided that the newborn child is no more than one week old and the mother shows proof of her identity, if available, to the person with whom the newborn is left and provides her name and address.
This legislation was so simple that I understand it. The members of the House wanted to protect newborn babies. A mother of a newborn could - if this legislation ever became law - legally abandon the child to someone at a hospital or county health center instead of abandoning the baby to death in a trash can, toilet, or cubby hole under a sink.
Almost three-fourths of the states have laws pertaining to newborn baby abandonment. Nationally, The Augusta Chronicle writes, a 1998 study showed that an estimated 31,000 babies were safely abandoned at hospitals, but that of 105 babies found abandoned in public places, 33 died before they were found.
One reason the Georgia Senate dumped this House version of a safe haven bill was the fear that Georgia could become a dumping grounds of sorts if neighboring states didnt enact similar laws.
Perhaps the good senators should leave Atlanta and travel east to Augusta, home of Krystal R. Middleton. Middleton was charged in August 2000 (in between the first no vote and the second failure to pass baby protection legislation) with the felony offense of reckless abandonment.
Assistant District Attorn-ey Jason Troiano said Mid-dleton delivered a healthy baby girl in the bathroom of her home, wrapped the newborn in two towels and put her under the sink. Inves-tigators found the baby dead. A pathologist determined the baby was full term and in good condition when born but died of asphyxia.
Fast forward to 2002.
Ron Shepherd of Savan-nah was picking up trash this past Monday. He saw a baby girls tummy in the dumpster, then her hands moved the trash that had partially covered her. Another few seconds and she would have died, crushed in a garbage truck, as someone intended.
A 7-pound, 14-ounce baby girl was just thrown away. Open the lid. Drop her in. A Safe Haven bill would have given her mother another option. A legal option. A life-saving option. But Georgias senators keep saying,Toss "em out!
Critics argue legalizing child abandonment sends a message promoting irresponsible behavior. But we have been doing that for years. Abortion on demand is the law of the land. School districts object to the teaching of abstinence. Condoms are passed out as the cure-all for hormone fever. And babies are created and birthed and abandoned.
Floridas Legislature looked at Georgias newborn baby protection bill as a pattern for their own. Sadly, Georgias Senate refused to pass it. And in Georgia, babies are abandoned and die in dumpsters. Those are needless deaths. But Georgia did not do anything about it last year; we used our 2001 special session in an attempt to redraw legislative districts and quit with that job unfinished, too. Meanwhile, the death toll rises.
Maybe this year it will stop?
(David Sisler is a local free-lance writer.)
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