The Indiana Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday aimed at shielding from child neglect charges people who anonymously surrender babies in “newborn safety devices” at hospitals.
The bill, now on its way to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature, also provides civil immunity to hospitals that install the boxes and receive a baby, and it allows two existing boxes — at fire stations near Michigan City and Woodburn — to continue operating.
“I'm super excited… ecstatic,” said Monica Kelsey, a firefighter and medic, and founder of Woodburn-based Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “This has been a long fight for us, but I've never given up hope, and legislators have agreed this has to happen in Indiana.”
The bill expands Indiana's existing Safe Haven Law, which enables a person to anonymously give up an unwanted infant without fear of arrest or prosecution, in a face-to-face interaction with an emergency medical services provider.
Indiana child welfare and health experts have opposed the boxes, saying people should abandon babies only directly to care providers. Kelsey said she agrees that's preferable but it's naive not to realize that some mothers can't bear the shame of that, especially in small rural communities where they are more likely to know the provider.