Churches could be added to list of safe havens for unwanted babies

Parents could soon have a new place to safely give up their unwanted babies. An amendment to a bill in the Kentucky Legislature could add churches to the list of places parents can take their babies.

A mother found a safe haven in a Marshall County emergency room when she used her rights and dropped off her baby. It came as a surprise for the two Benton police officers who responded, Ryan Moore and Nick Spears.

"I think that no matter who you are, you’re going to have some sort of emotional ties to that," Spears said.

Benton Police Chief Tracy Watwood says as far as he knows, this is the first time a Marshall County parent used the safe-haven law. 

"At the end of the day, the important thing is that the baby is safe, that baby is healthy," Watwood said. 

The Kentucky Safe Infants Act allows parents to drop off babies at medical providers, police departments, and fire stations without being questioned or charged. Now churches could soon be added to this list.

Churches that want to participate would be required to hang a sign stating their participation, along with their operating hours when staff would be present.

"I don’t know if that’s a real safe choice for a safe haven drop off," said Marshall County Hospital Emergency Department and Intensive Care Director Terry Stearns.

He says the possible changes concern him. He says churches may not have equipment like the incubator used to treat the infant brought to his emergency room.

"Any newborn, temperatures are a very important part of their health needs on immediate arrival to world,’  Stearns said.

If the bill passes, Stearns and the officers who responded hope it can help save more infants and give them a loving home.

The bill being amended was approved by the Kentucky Senate this week. It will now go to the Kentucky House of Representatives. The bill also allows parents to drop off infants 30 days after they’re born instead of 72 hours after they’re born.

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