Hoosier lawmakers are looking to increase the options available for anonymously surrendering a newborn baby if the parents are unable or unwilling to care for it.
Currently, a child less than 30 days old can be given up — no questions asked — by handing it to a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, physician or nurse.
The baby alternatively can be placed in a newborn safety device, also known as a baby box, that’s located at participating hospitals or fire stations staffed 24 hours a day.
House Bill 1230 also would allow baby boxes to be located at an ambulance hub or emergency medical services station that’s staffed 24 hours a day.
State Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, the sponsor, said in southeastern Indiana many counties don’t have hospitals and there mostly only are volunteer fire departments that don’t qualify to host a baby box because someone isn’t in the building around the clock.
But he said many emergency medical services stations in the region are staffed 24 hours a day, and someone would be immediately available to care for a baby if a mother decided, for financial or other reasons, to give it up by placing the newborn in a baby box.
"We need the ability to have baby boxes, especially along the Ohio River," Frye said. "Some of the poorest areas of Indiana are from Madison to Lawrenceburg. It’s just poverty — I love those folks, but it’s just poverty."
The legislation also authorizes a parent to call 911 and request an emergency services provider pick up a newborn baby the parent intends to permanently surrender, instead of having to find transportation to a police station, fire station, hospital or baby box.
A second measure, House Bill 1032, would allow baby boxes at unstaffed volunteer fire stations, if the station is located in a city or town and the box is equipped with a regularly tested alarm that dials 911 when a baby is placed inside so police can promptly remove the child from the box.
Both proposals previously passed the House unanimously and began being reviewed Monday by the Senate Committee on Family and Children Services, which is working to ensure the differing language of each plan does not inadvertently create a statutory conflict.
State Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, is among the leading proponents of the legislation, since he said he was given up at a hospital by his immigrant birth mother shortly after being born four months premature when she realized she did not have the resources to care for him.
"I always tell people, 'There's a story behind every story, and never be ashamed of your roots or who you are or where you came from,'" Andrade said. "If you know me, you know that I’m always upbeat, and I always try to enjoy life. I am blessed to be here. I wasn’t supposed to be here.
"You never know which baby is out there that needs tender love and care, and this bill will allow a family to love that baby."