TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas House has approved a bill that would strengthen protections for parents or guardians who leave their newborn children at safe havens such as hospitals, fire stations or city and county health facilities.
The bill approved Wednesday was proposed partly in response to a case in which police publicly identified a mother who abandoned her child at a Wichita hospital, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1bOn5yN ).
The law allows parents or guardians to leave a baby less than 45 days old in a "safe haven" without being prosecuted. The child becomes a ward of the state.
The proposed bill, which now goes to the Senate, would amend the state's Newborn Infant Protection Act to allow a parent or guardian who leaves a child at a safe haven to decline to provide his or her name. The person could also provide family or medical history information anonymously. It also would allow safe havens to keep information on the parent or guardian confidential, except if child abuse is suspected.
Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, who introduced the bill, said some young mothers abandon their babies to conceal their pregnancies from relatives and others.
"We don't want to influence someone not to turn a baby in because they're afraid it will be known publicly," Pauls said. "We want to prevent someone in a difficult situation from just hiding the child or tossing the child into a trash can."
Pauls said she didn't want a repeat of a January incident in which police launched a public search for a woman who left her newborn son at the neonatal intensive care unit at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph Hospital. Police distributed the woman's name and picture to media.
Following criticism, Wichita police said the safe haven law shields parents from prosecution but does not guarantee anonymity. They said they wanted to find the woman to ensure her welfare. She was found safe.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com