HARRISBURG (April 7, 2019) One of the first bills to pass the Senate this session was Sen. Michele Brooks’ legislation to add the growing number of urgent care centers to the list of safe havens where a parent in distress may surrender his or her newborn.
Senate Bill 86 supplements Act 68 of 2017, which added emergency medical responders to the list of caregivers who may accept newborns relinquished by a parent. Many surrounding states also allow babies to be handed over safely to any health care facility, and this bill mirrors that trend, Brooks noted. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously on March 26.
More than 7,000 urgent care centers now operate nationwide, and most can be found within a ten-mile radius of nearly every town in Pennsylvania.
Staffed by trained medical personnel, these urgent care centers would be another safe place that could accept newborns, broadening the list of currently designated caregivers, which already includes hospitals, police stations and emergency medical technicians.
Safe Haven Laws, or “Baby Moses” Laws, have been passed in numerous states since the 1990s after a string of infanticide cases in the Midwest. This bill and similar laws are designed to decriminalize the leaving of an unharmed infant with a responsible caregiver, protecting infants from harm by providing a warm, secure haven for them when a parent is no longer able to care for a child.
According to USA TODAY, from 1999 to October 2013, 2,138 children have been relinquished nationwide under the Baby Safe Haven laws. (Oct. 12, 2013).
“We have all heard the tragic stories in the news of terrified mothers depositing their newborns in public toilets and trash cans, or dropping them out of high-rise windows or moving cars,” Brooks said. “This bill provides another option for parents in distress and aims to save our smallest and most innocent lives.”
Brooks’ bill has now been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for their consideration.
Contact: Diane McNaughton (717) 787-1322