‘Baby boxes’ bill sparks debate

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Opponents say it would benefit one vendor.

A proposal that would allow parents to place up to month-old newborns in so-called “baby boxes” instead of handing them over to firefighters, paramedics and emergency personnel cleared a Senate health-care panel on Tuesday.

Despite the support for the measure (SB 122), Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, said a nearly hour-long discussion on the bill underscores that there’s “work to be done.”

“I know there’s still disagreement. I think it’s very clear, it’s very clear to Senator Baxley, that there’s work to be done on this bill to get it in a better position,” said Bean, referring to bill sponsor Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican.

The bill would change a state law about abandoned infants to allow babies up to 30 days old to be placed in a “newborn infant safety device” located on exterior walls of fire stations, emergency medical-services stations or hospitals. The bill would require the devices to have certain design features that are included in devices made by Safe Haven Baby Boxes. Baxley denied that the bill only benefits Safe Haven Baby Boxes, an Indiana-based nonprofit.

The bill is opposed by A Safe Haven for Newborns, a nonprofit group that has worked with 5,000 Florida women in the past 20 years.

According to a legislative staff analysis, 386 newborns have been abandoned in Florida since 2000 when a state law about abandoning babies at fire stations or hospitals was first passed. Of that total, 324 were abandoned in such safe circumstances. Of the 62 infants not safely abandoned, 32 died.

Baxley said his bill would increase choices for women by allowing them to use the boxes and said nine other states have passed legislation authorizing the baby boxes.

“This is about the rescue,” Baxley said.

Opponents, though, worry that baby boxes will preclude women who surrender newborn infants from getting follow-up counseling. It also will preclude the infants who were surrendered from having access to their medical backgrounds.

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, worried that Baxley’s bill doesn’t spell out what would happen with infants after they are placed in the boxes and would allow the Department of Health to adopt rules for regulation of the boxes.

“There are custody issues,” Book said.

The boxes are required to be equipped with a specific alarm system that triggers when a newborn is placed inside. An interior surveillance system has led some lawmakers to believe that Baxley’s bill would benefit only Safe Haven Baby Boxes.

“The specifications in the bill would point to Safe Haven Baby Boxes. Can you explain why that’s the case in the bill,” Sen. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, asked Baxley.

Baxley said the details included in the bill are guidelines.

“You can design this and put this together yourself by the specifications. There’s nothing tied to selling baby boxes about this,” Baxley said. “To advocate that this is about them making money, they are not making money. Not that kind of money. They are not making near what some of the other organizational leaders are making on children’s issues. Believe me. They are interested in sparing kids and giving them a chance to have a life.”

Before voting on the measure, senators heard remote public testimony, with Florida Voice for the Unborn founder Andrew Shirvell saying he couldn’t understand the opposition.

“This bill is a no-brainer. Opposition to it is manufactured purely for political theater or based on disinformation,” he said.

Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer took umbrage at the comment, saying the testimony was “extremely insulting.” Farmer said Shirvell should be prevented from testifying before the Legislature in the future.

Kirk Zeppi, a licensed mental-health counselor in Bradenton, said women who surrender their children still have what he called “God-given instincts to protect their child.”

“Logical thinking would demonstrate that a woman trying to protect her child would much more be apt to hand her child to a person wearing a uniform or scrubs. Having eye-to-eye contact with a professional who is in the business of saving lives will indeed satisfy that mother’s instinctual desire to protect her baby. The box provides for none of that,” he said.

Zeppi also said Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ promotional videos “refer to the box door working like an oven.”

As testimony ended, Bean said he didn’t have the ability to pause the debate and that there “were some offensive things said on both sides whether for or against this bill.”

Bean called for a vote on the bill minutes before the scheduled adjournment of the meeting.

“I appreciate everybody,” Bean said. “We could have debated all day on it.”

___

Republished with permission from the News Service of Florida.

Wire Services


2 comments

  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    February 10, 2021 at 8:21 am

    Florida Voice for the Unborn Executive Director Andrew Shirvell issued the following statement on February 9, 2021, regarding Florida Senate Democratic Minority Leader Gary Farmer’s outlandish demand to prohibit Mr. Shirvell from testifying before all legislative committees:

    “Today, I testified in favor of Senate Bill 122 (Surrendered Newborn Infants) at the meeting of the Florida Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Senate Bill 122, informally referred to as the ‘Baby Box Bill,’ is sponsored by pro-life champion Senator Dennis Baxley (R—Sumter, Lake, & Marion Counties). This life-affirming bill will amend Florida’s existing Safe Haven Law to explicitly permit the use of baby boxes for the safe surrendering of newborn infants at hospitals, fire stations, and emergency medical service stations that are staffed twenty-four hours a day.”

    Shirvell continued, “During my testimony earlier today, I expressed my opinion that it was incomprehensible to me why anyone who claims to care about children, and believes in ‘choices,’ would oppose Senate Bill 122. I concluded my testimony by expressing my opinion that supporting Senate Bill 122 was a ‘no-brainer’ and that opposition to it was manufactured and based on political theater or based on disinformation.”

    Shirvell further remarked, “Apparently, Florida Senate Democratic Minority Leader Gary Farmer (D—Broward County), who is also a subcommittee member, did not like that I was one of two public speakers to support Senate Bill 122 and decided to ask me an irrelevant question that Senator Baxley had already addressed under questioning previously. In response to Senator Farmer’s question, I simply pointed out that my basis for believing that the opposition to the bill was illegitimate was the fact that the Florida House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a nearly-identical bill to Senate Bill 122 during the 2020 Legislative Session and that only two pro-abortion Democrats had opposed it then. In fact, this very similar bill passed the House chamber by a vote of 117-to-2.”

    Shirvell continued, “Senator Farmer then lost it. He hyperbolically claimed that my testimony was ‘offensive’ and, even more childishly, demanded that I be prohibited from testifying ever again before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and all other legislative committees. At first I was simply stunned, but thereafter I was relieved that Farmer’s ridiculous theatrics were simply that and proved my overall point. The subcommittee chair did not give-in to Senator Farmer’s nonsense.”

    Shirvell concluded, “I know the rules. I did not criticize any particular senator, member of the public, or organization – nor did I use any foul language whatsoever. I just stated my opinion. Whether Senator Farmer finds my opinion offensive is immaterial. Unfortunately, I believe that Senator Farmer may have singled me out to be ‘cancelled’ because I am an outspoken pro-life Christian. It is sad and shameful that the Florida Senate Democratic Minority Leader is so hostile to the pro-life viewpoint that he wants pro-lifers like me censored. In the final analysis, however, Senator Farmer’s tantrum failed to delay the Baby Box Bill’s continued advancement. The subcommittee voted 7-to-4 to pass Senate Bill 122, with all pro-life Republicans in support and all pro-abortion Democrats in opposition.”

    ***

    Florida Voice for the Unborn is a Tallahassee-based grassroots lobbying group that only focuses on pro-life issues impacting the unborn. It is strictly independent, and its work is guided by faith in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Florida Voice for the Unborn supports all peaceful efforts by elected officials and others to end abortion and save lives. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Parler @UnbornVoiceFL – and visit our website.

  • Dawn M Geras

    February 10, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Dear,
    My name is Dawn Geras, and I am president of the Illinois Save Abandoned Babies Foundation. I am a founding board members of the National Safe Haven Alliance. Over the years I have assisted many states and organizations with passing and improving their safe haven laws. Please understand that I am passionate about wanting to do all that I can to save each and every baby from illegal abandonment and at first blush coming out against Baby Boxes may not seem to make sense.
    After you think through this box idea, I believe that you will agree and help to stop this idea.
    1) Baby Boxes remove the chance for a mother to be offered medical care and supportive services. About 25% of parents who come to a Safe Haven, initially planning to use the Safe Haven Law, when given the opportunity to talk about options, chose to either made an adoption or parenting plan.
    2) Baby Boxes strip away any chance of personal contact with a person, which means the parent is completely alone, contributing to her being frightened. She does not have the comfort of actually placing her baby into the arms of anyone. Instead, the idea that what she is doing is ‘bad’ and something that she should feel ashamed about is reinforced.
    3) Baby Boxes will add tremendous confusion as to where and what is considered a Safe Haven location. There are so many bad possible out comes to this. For example, a mother comes to a hospital, looking for a Baby Box, but that hospital doesn’t have one. She becomes frustrated, confused, and leaves the baby alone, abandoned. Will the baby survive? The mother is bleeding, in need of medical help that she does not get. How will people feel when she is found having bled to death?
    4) Many women are looking for a safe delivery of their baby in a hospital. Baby Boxes will confuse hopes for a safe delivery by suggesting that her only option is to leave the baby in a Baby Box.
    5) The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for a ban on the boxes in Europe and has urged countries to provide family planning and other support to address the root causes of abandonments, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell.
    6) A large concern came from the Nassau County Police Department and New York City Police Department’s Bureau of Special operations known as Homeland Security. Even before 911, the departments had grave concerns about pipe bombs being placed inside one of them by terrorists and causing catastrophic injuries to doctors, hospital stuff and first responders. In today’s environment we have seen attacks in Boston, California, New York and many more locations in the USA. If a terrorist makes a coordinated attack on a hospital, police/fire station, key emergency personal will be killed or critically wounded. Indianapolis, Indiana Homeland Security list over 8,500 potential terror targets. “Boxes” will be added to the list as a high risk location making them a “soft target” and affect costly increase in liability insurance at these locations.
    7) And, of course, the cost! Each box will cost some $20,000 to build and install. Then there is the continued cost of monthly maintenance.
    8) There have been some half a dozen times that twins have been relinquished under the Baby Safe Haven law. Have you questioned how a box would safely accommodate 30 day old twins?
    Safe haven programs across the country have saved over 4,000 infants since its conception in 1999. The numbers increase each year as more people learn about the law. What is needed are awareness campaigns NOT Baby Boxes.

Comments are closed.


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