TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – Representative Joe Harding of the Education and Employment Committee presented the Surrendered Newborn Infants or “Baby Box” bill to the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee for its approval.
House Bill 133, sponsored by Harding and Representative Mike Beltran, extends the Safe Haven Law that allows parents to surrender their newborn infant children legally to hospitals, fire stations, or police stations.
The bill increases the time a child could be surrendered, from seven days to thirty days, and regards the newborn surrendering safety devices, also known as “baby boxes.” The device has a silent alarm that alerts first responders and is climate controlled. Each one costs an estimated $50,000.
According to Representative Harding, 324 babies have been surrendered in person since safe haven laws have been passed in 2017, “but unfortunately, there are 62 children that have been surrendered unsafely, and of those 62, 31 died.”
The bill does not have requirements for surveillance of the boxes, but Harding pointed out that the facilities where the boxes would be installed are constantly surveilled, and liability could be worked into the bill.
Indiana is the state with the most boxes (53), and it saw a change from two to three deaths per year to none since 2017.
The bill was viewed favorably by the Committee by all but one of the members who saw it as an option to “a very difficult situation,” said Harding.
The sole dissenting voice was representative Susan Valdés, who considered that “though this is a well-intended bill, it comes with many unintended consequences.”
“Instead of having their conversations with our students in colleges, let’s get to the root of the problem. Babies aren’t made by mothers alone. Let’s talk about abstinence, let’s talk about birth control, about holding folks accountable. I believe we already have the Safe Haven Bill in place. So what we should be doing with the Department of Health is informing that this law is in place, that it is the place to protect that little one,” said Valdés.
“It’s almost like when a loved one passes away and you go about their caskets,” she continued. “I don’t mean to be so dramatic about it but think about it. I love that we’re expanding the time to thirty days, but what if a parent takes a child that’s five months old but he looks a month old? I can’t support this bill because we need better educational opportunities to explain what gets you pregnant, what happens to your body. I agree that we should not have lost a single baby, but this is not the root of the problem.”
Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org