Baby surrender would be made easier by House bill

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BOSTON – Parents wishing to surrender a newborn under the state’s baby safe-haven law could arrange a meeting to give an infant to an emergency responder by calling 911 under a bill passed Thursday by the Massachusetts House of Representatives that would amend the statute.

Passed in 2004, the Safe Haven Act lets parents surrender babies who are seven days old or younger at a hospital, police department or manned fire station. The babies are then taken into Department of Children and Families custody and placed in foster care.

In a short, lightly attended session Thursday morning, the House approved the bill (H 114) sponsored by Lakeville Republican Rep. Keiko Orrall that would add “with an emergency responder at an agreed upon location following a 911 call” to the list of facilities where a newborn can be surrendered into state custody.

The change is modeled after language in similar laws in Vermont and New Hampshire, Baby Safe Haven New England director Michael Morrisey has said.

At least 25 babies have been surrendered in Massachusetts since the safe haven law took effect, according to recent Baby Safe Haven New England figures.

Supporters of baby safe haven laws say they prevent infant abandonment, while critics caution they could encourage women to keep unwanted pregnancies secret and deliver without medical supervision.

Orrall’s bill has four Republican and three Democrat cosponsors. It was approved in the House on a voice vote and without any discussion. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Richard Ross, a Wrentham Republican, is one of the Senate cosponsors.

Written by Katie Lannan