By NATALIE WILLIAMSON
The Alabama Legislature unanimously approved a new Safe Haven law aimed at providing enhanced protection for infants who are voluntarily surrendered.
The bill, which was sponsored by freshman Representative Donna Givens (R – Loxley), allows parents to surrender their children up to 45 days after birth. Additionally, it permits fire stations staffed by emergency medical personnel 24 hours a day to accept surrendered newborns. The current law restricts infant surrender to within 72 hours of birth at hospitals.
"As a pro-life Christian, this bill is an extension of my belief that every child's life is absolutely sacred and must be protected," Givens said in a news release. "We want mothers and fathers who are unable to care for their babies to have safer, more compassionate options to leave infants where they can receive care before going to loving homes. I am particularly thankful to the Department of Human Resources for offering valuable insight and feedback throughout the legislative process."
The Legislature passed House Bill 473 on June 1. Apart from expanding the surrender period, the bill also authorizes the installation of "baby boxes" at hospitals and fire stations, which will allow for anonymous and secure infant surrenders.
Funding for the first 10 baby boxes has already been pledged by an anonymous donor. The boxes will be placed near colleges in Baldwin County, Mobile, Auburn, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, the Muscle Shoals area, Dothan, Anniston and Montgomery.
"Thanks to the generosity of this private donor, parents giving up children won't be leaving them somewhere dangerous," Givens said. "Those babies will have their lives saved and get to grow up in homes with families who will love and nurture them. It's a win-win-win situation."
These specially designed boxes will be available for use from both inside and outside the approved facilities. After a baby is placed inside, the exterior access locks automatically, and a silent alarm notifies on-duty first responders to retrieve the child promptly.
"I am hopeful that any parent considering giving up a child will go to a baby box and leave the baby inside instead of abandoning the child somewhere dangerous," Givens said. "We have to do everything we can to prevent harm to these babies."