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MA - Safe haven law gets initial OK

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  • MA - Safe haven law gets initial OK

    MASSACHUSETTS
    http://www.masslive.com/springfield/...se/news-4/1079
    082956187260.xml
    Safe haven law gets initial OK

    03/12/2004


    By DAN RING
    [email protected]



    BOSTON - The House yesterday approved a bill that would allow parents to drop
    their newborns at a hospital or other designated safe sites without fear of
    prosecution.

    Supporters said the bill could save lives and help young mothers who are
    frightened.


    "The bill does not encourage child abandonment, but sets up a safety net to
    make sure no child is left to die because a mother is scared and confused,"
    said Rep. Lida E. Harkins, D-Needham, a key sponsor.


    The House voted 137-21 to give the bill initial approval. It needs one more
    level of approval in the House of Representatives before going to the Senate.
    According to the bill, parents who leave babies 7 days old or younger with a
    person at a hospital, fire station or police station could not be charged with
    child abandonment. The baby would be given to the Department of Social
    Services.


    Opponents said the bill allows people to shirk their responsibilities. They
    said the bill could encourage abandonment.


    "This bill sends a terrible message to our kids," said Rep. David M. Torrisi,
    D-North Andover. "No shame, no blame, no name is the message we are sending to
    our kids."


    Since May 2000, 11 infants have been abandoned in Massachusetts, said Rep.
    Thomas J. O'Brien, D-Kingston. At least four of those were in Western
    Massachusetts, with two found dead.


    Jennifer L. Paluseo of Plymouth, a former student at the University of
    Massachusetts at Amherst, admitted last month that she gave birth to a baby boy
    in the shower of her dormitory in May 2002 and placed him in a black plastic
    trash bag, where he suffocated.


    In Ware, Amie R. Sorel of Ware was convicted of improper disposal of a body for
    placing her newborn in a closet after she gave birth in October 2001, then
    dumping the body in the Ware River.


    A young man dropped off a baby at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield in
    February 2002. He was directed to a hospital after calling a New York safe
    haven hot line.


    In September 2001, an infant girl was found unharmed after she was left on a
    pew in St. Catherine of Siena Church in Springfield.


    Critics are concerned the bill won't be approved in the Senate before the end
    of formal legislative sessions July 31. The Senate has never debated the bill.


    "It's going into completely uncharted territory," said Michael D. Morrisey, a
    Lexington man who began pushing for safe havens in 2001 after helping to bury a
    newborn found abandoned in a Boston cemetery.


    Safe haven laws have been approved in 45 states, Morrisey said. The other four
    states without such laws are Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Vermont, he said.


    Under the bill, the Legislature must approve the law again by June 30, 2008, or
    it will be automatically repealed at that time.

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