NO MORE DUMPSTER BABIES!
by David Sisler
During the legislative session last year, HB 1365, "Safe Place for Newborns Act 2000" was introduced by five members of the Georgia House of Representatives. It passed the House on March 3, but was defeated by the Senate on March 22.
HB 360, "Safe Place for Newborns Act 2001," was introduced by six members of the Georgia House of Representatives during this year's legislative session. It passed the House on March 7, but was "referred" by the Senate on the same day.
Score: Senate 2, Newborns 0.
This is not rocket science, but it may insure the survival of future rocket scientists - if the Georgia Senate ever catches on. Any rocket scientists in that chamber?
Section 1 of the bill amends Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated by adding Chapter 10A.
Paragraph 3 says, "It is the express purpose and intent of the General Assembly in enacting this chapter to prevent injuries to and deaths of newborn children that are caused by a mother who abandons the newborn."
Paragraph 4 says, "A mother shall not be prosecuted for the crimes of cruelty to a child, Code Section 16-5-70; contributing to the delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation of a child, Code Section 16-12-1; or abandonment of a dependent child, Code Section 19-10-1, because of the act of leaving her newborn child in the physical custody of an employee, agent, or member of the staff of a medical facility who is on duty, whether there in a paid or volunteer position; provided that the newborn child is no more than one week old and the mother shows proof of her identity, if available, to the person with whom the newborn is left and provides her name and address."
This piece of legislation is so simple that I understand it. The members of the House want to protect newborn babies. A mother of a newborn could - if this legislation ever becomes law - legally abandon the child to someone at a hospital or county health center instead of abandoning the baby to death in a trash can, toilet, or cubby hole under a sink.
Thirty-seven states have passed laws pertaining to newborn baby abandonment. "Nationally," The Augusta Chronicle writes, "a 1998 study showed that an estimated 31,000 babies were safely abandoned at hospitals, but that of 105 babies found abandoned in public places, 33 died before they were found."
One reason the Georgia Senate dumped this House version of a safe haven bill was the fear that Georgia could become a dumping grounds of sorts if neighboring states didn't enact similar laws.
Perhaps the good Senators should leave Atlanta and travel east to the Garden City of Augusta, home of Krystal R. Middleton. Ms. Middleton was charged in August of last year (in between the first "no" vote and the second failure to pass baby protection legislation) with the felony offense of reckless abandonment.
As reported in the Chronicle, Assistant District Attorney Jason Troiano said that Ms. Middleton delivered a healthy baby girl in the bathroom of her home, wrapped the newborn in two towels and put her under the sink. Investigators found the baby dead. A pathologist determined the baby was full term and in good condition when born but died of asphyxia, Mr. Troiano said.
"The baby had a bruise on her forehead and bruises on the left and the right sides of her head that were inconsistent with the birthing process," Mr. Troiano said.
In October of last year (in between the two attempts to pass a safe haven bill) a Griffin, GA, woman pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter charges in the death of her newborn. Krisanthia Zaquay Whitner, 21, was given a 20-year sentence, with 10 years to serve. According to the Chronicle, Ms. Whitner secretly gave birth to the child, clipping the umbilical cord with scissors that she asked her mother to hand her through a crack in the bathroom door. The baby was found abandoned in a toilet in the house Ms. Whitner shared with her parents.
Critics argue that legalizing child abandonment sends a message promoting irresponsible behavior. But we have been doing that for years. Abortion on demand is the law of the land. School districts object to the teaching of abstinence. Condoms are passed out as the cure-all for hormone fever. And babies are created and birthed and abandoned.
"When it boils down to it, is it better to have a live child or a dead child?" asks Debi Faris, who created a "Garden of Angels," a cemetery in Los Angeles to bury thrown away babies. To date she tends 44 graves.
Florida's legislature looked at Georgia's newborn baby protection bill as a pattern for their own. Sadly, Georgia's Senate refuses to pass it. And in Georgia, babies are abandoned and die in dumpsters. Those are needless deaths. But Georgia won't do anything about it until at least next year - we used our special session this year in an attempt to redraw legislative districts and quit with that job unfinished, too. Meanwhile, the death toll rises.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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