Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Legislature expands safety net for newborn babies

The following news release was issued today, April 25.

ST. PAUL — Legislation expanding options for mothers at risk of harming their newborn babies was signed into law on Apr. 23. The lifesaving efforts of the bill's authors and the Legislature were praised by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization.

"This is common-sense, compassionate legislation that will actually save precious lives, and we applaud the Legislature for passing it almost unanimously," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach.

The legislation was authored by Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, and Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka. MCCL worked closely with the Minnesota Ambulance Association, which also provided significant leadership in drafting the changes. MCCL, the Minnesota Ambulance Association and others plan to publicize the law's new provisions.

A handful of women are vulnerable to abandoning or harming their newborn children in cases of severe stress or mental instability. Several newborn babies have been found in recent years after being drowned in the Mississippi River near Red Wing, for example.

Minnesota's Safe Place for Newborns law (Minnesota Statutes 2010, section 145.902) originally provided a woman, after giving birth, a three-day window in which she is allowed to place her newborn baby at a hospital and walk away, no questions asked. The newborn must be unharmed. Several babies have been presented at hospitals under the Safe Place for Newborns law.

The 2012 "Give Life a Chance" legislation widens the options for mothers of newborns under the state's Safe Place for Newborns law. A newborn may now be placed at a hospital, urgent care provider or with ambulance personnel (by calling 911) by the mother or a person with the mother’s permission. The law expands the relinquishment time period to seven days from birth.

"Give Life a Chance will save more lives, thanks to these greater accommodations for mothers who are at risk," Fischbach added. "No newborn baby in Minnesota should ever be harmed because the mother is not able to provide care."