Safe Haven Bill Moves to Iowa Senate

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) A bill is now in the Senate's hands that would expand what's called the safe haven law. It would extend the time and the ways parents could drop off their newborns without repercussions.

"30 babies have been dropped off at hospitals, so it is a need to have this option available to parents," said Dr. Benjamin Stevens of Mercy Iowa City.

Mercy Iowa City is currently one of the 'safe haven' hospitals where women can drop off their babies within 14 days of their birth.

The new bill will extend that time to 30 days, protect them from legal responsibility, and allow women to surrender their baby to a first responder through a 911 call. Supporters say it could help avoid the uncomfortable process at a hospital.

"When you get there, what do you do? You're already in the state of mind where you feel despair, hopeless or lack the confidence. To call 911 or the sheriff's office they can have a better response and be less likely to have child abuse occur in those cases," said Patti Gilbaugh, executive director of Grace C. Mae Advocate Center.

Beyond that, transportation may also be a problem.

"Mothers in particular are really desperate. They've maybe hidden the pregnancy or they were so unsure about the pregnancy that they don't have a strong support system. That's half the reason why I think people choose to give up their baby in the first place," said Gilbaugh.

Doctors agree the increase in locations can help save lives.

"Families sometimes find themselves in very difficult situations so obviously the intent of this law is to make sure that the health and safety of infants remains a priority for their families," said Stevens.

The House passed the bill unanimously. To survive the funnel, a Senate committee must also pass it.

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