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24 Mar 2013

Youngblood: Pa. should expand ‘Safe Haven’ law to further protect newborns

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March 24, 2013 Category: Health Posted by:

Phila. lawmaker to introduce bill to allow an infant to be placed in the care of city police officers

HARRISBURG – State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., announced today her plans to introduce legislation that would expand the state’s Newborn Protection
Act, better known as the Pennsylvania Safe Haven Law.

Specifically, the proposal, which Youngblood plans to introduce next week, would allow police stations to serve as safe havens in Pennsylvania. Police
officers would then be directed to take the infant to the nearest hospital in order for the newborn to receive immediate care and attention.

Youngblood said she was contacted by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services last year when a new mother, unable to care for her newborn child, left
her infant with Philadelphia police officers, thinking she was doing the right thing and abiding by the state’s Safe Haven Law. Although the Police
Commissioner’s Office did not press any charges against the mother, city officials concluded that the law only allows a newborn, up to 28 days old, to be
dropped off at a hospital.

“If we look at the letter of the law, this new mother, who realized that she was unable to care for her newborn and wanted to make sure the baby was safe,
broke the law,” Youngblood said. “I commend the Philadelphia police for not pressing charges, and for accepting the infant into their care. But the
situation brought to light a problem with the state’s Safe Haven Law.”

Youngblood added that most law enforcement agencies are already providing safe haven for infants, but it is important to ensure that parents who are trying
to do the moral thing under very difficult circumstances are protected by state law.

“In December 2011, right before Christmas, a baby was found in a cardboard box on the curb next to garbage waiting to be picked up,” Youngblood said. “The
baby was nicknamed ‘Baby Noel’ and, thankfully, survived the ordeal. That is why this bill is so important. We want to encourage parents to seek assistance
from law enforcement when they are unable to care for their infant child, as opposed to leaving them out with the trash.”

Officials from the city’s Department of Human Services and the Philadelphia Police Department have been instrumental in the development of this
legislation, Youngblood said. Over the last year she has worked with them on the details of the proposal.

“The expansion of the law makes sense,” said Philadelphia Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick. “People turn to police officers in times of need and
this is no different. It’s also important that we get the message out that these parents will not face criminal charges or retribution.”

“The bottom line is that we are trying to save lives” said Philadelphia Department of Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose. “The fact that we
have had so much misunderstanding and misinterpretation has been a barrier to those in need of using the law. This new legislation gives parents more
choices of locations to leave their baby in a safe place.”

Youngblood said she is hopeful the bill will receive immediate attention and quick passage in the General Assembly.

“This bill could also serve as a public service announcement to new mothers and parents that help is there if they need it,” Youngblood said. “We need to
make sure that citizens know of the options available to them.”

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