House passes ‘baby box’ proposal

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There are currently 56 Safe Haven Baby Boxes located in the country.

The House passed a bill on Thursday that would authorize some hospitals, police departments and fire stations to install and use “baby boxes” as a drop-off for abandoned infants.

The chamber OK’d the legislation (HB 133) with a 108-11 vote. Republican Reps. Mike Beltran and Joe Harding are the bill sponsors.

The legislation would allow sites like hospitals, police departments and fire departments — if they are staffed 24 hours a day — to install outfitted drop boxes for babies.

According to a staff analysis, the boxes cost roughly $15,000. Municipalities that choose to utilize the boxes would pick up the tab, Harding explained.

The bill would also quadruple the maximum age of a child that can be surrendered to 30 days.

State law currently allows mothers to anonymously hand over newborn children seven days or younger to first responders.

Harding noted that Florida ranks third in the nation for unsafe abandonment.

“It’s time we do something about this,” Harding said.

Critics, meanwhile, voiced concerns about regular inspections and questioned if the boxes would be checked regularly.

While Harding explained that the boxes are outfitted with alarms, some lawmakers expressed reservations.

“You identified that an alarm goes inside of the facility,” said Democratic Rep. and Fire Captain Matt Willhite. “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there to hear it, did it really fall?”

They also fear that designated places won’t always have round-the-clock staffing.

“I would just point out to you that although fire stations may be manned 24 hours that doesn’t mean someone’s in them 24 hours,” Willhite added. “They do go on calls and aren’t there.”

Notably, more than 20 countries currently have some form of baby boxes and more than 200 are installed across Europe, according to a staff analysis.

There are currently 56 Safe Haven Baby Boxes located in five states.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.


2 comments

  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    March 18, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    Florida Voice for the Unborn’s executive director released the following statement on House Bill 133:

    “Florida Voice for the Unborn is greatly pleased that the state House of Representatives passed this afternoon House Bill 133, which is informally known as the ‘Baby Box Bill.’ The bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan margin of 108-to-11. This lifesaving measure 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 24 hours a day. This legislation will also expand the age at which an infant may be legally surrendered in Florida, from 7 days to 30 days old.

    Baby boxes have a proven track record of deterring illegal newborn abandonments and saving lives. Since Indiana installed the nation’s first Safe Haven Baby Box several years ago, there have been no reported illegal newborn abandonments in that state. And in 2019, Indiana had 9 newborn infants surrendered via baby boxes.

    I want to thank Rep. Joe Harding (R—Levy & Marion Counties) for his sponsorship of House Bill 133. Following the floor vote, House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R—Pinellas County) stated that House Bill 133 was the very first bill passed by a ‘freshman’ representative this year. Florida Voice for the Unborn is very proud of that fact – and so, too, should Rep. Harding and all of his pro-life colleagues.

    Florida Voice for the Unborn has led the charge here in Florida to get this life-saving legislation passed and finally enacted into law. We now call on the state Senate leadership to quickly shepherd House Bill 133’s companion bill through its final committee of reference so that the full Senate can have an opportunity to follow the House in passing this much needed legislation.”

    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 Geras

    March 19, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    Opposition to Boxes
    My name is Dawn Geras, President of the Illinois Save Abandoned Babies Foundation and a founding board member 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 so at first blush coming out against boxes may not seem to make sense. After you think through this, I believe that you will agree.
    The following is based on over 20 years experience in dealing with Baby Safe Haven issues.
    1) 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, choose to either make an adoption or parenting plan.
    2) Boxes strip away any chance of personal contact which means the parent is completely alone, contributing to her being frightened. She does not have the comfort of 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) Boxes will add confusion as to where and what is considered a Safe Haven site. There are so many bad possible outcomes to this. For example, a mother comes to a hospital, looking for a 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) 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.
    5) Another concern comes from the Bureau of 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. There have been attacks in various cities, most recently in Washington, DC. If a terrorist makes an attack on a hospital, or police/fire station, key emergency personnel will be killed or critically wounded. Boxes will be added to the list of high risk locations as a “soft target” and greatly increase liability insurance.
    6) Cost! Each box costs some $15,000 to $30,000 to install. Then there is the continued cost of monthly maintenance and yearly inspections. Who pays for this?
    7) There is a conflict of interest when the group lobbying for the boxes owns the only patent for the boxes. It has been asked if they are violating their nonprofit 501(c)3 status with the amount of time and money they are spending lobbying for baby box laws.
    8) There have been some half a dozen times when twins have been relinquished under the Baby Safe Haven law. Can you see stuffing a box to 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 is increased awareness that the law exists not Boxes.
    I hope you will therefore consider these concerns and vote against HB133.

Comments are closed.


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