INFANT ABANDONMENT: Bill Heads to First Senate Committee Hearing Today
As California lawmakers introduce legislation that would provide legal protection to women who abandon their infants at hospital emergency rooms, some reproductive health advocates argue that the state's resources should also be spent on providing pre- and postnatal care for the women, the Los Angeles Times reports. The input comes in response to state Sen. Jim Brulte (R)'s legislation (SB 1368) that would protect women who give infants to emergency room employees within 72 hours after delivery and would allow the women to change their mind and reclaim their infants. Brulte's measure is scheduled for its first Senate committee hearing today; state Assemblyman Ken Maddox (R) has introduced a similar measure in the Assembly. While the government does not count the number of abandoned infants, HHS recently conducted a review of newspaper stories reporting the problem. According to that search, 105 infants were abandoned in 1996-1997, up from 65 in 1991-1992. Noting that Los Angeles County averages between 10-20 abandoned infants per year, Los Angeles County Coroner's Investigator Doyle Tolbert said, "The babies we see in trash cans are probably from younger females who are frightened. They have gotten pregnant and don't know which way to turn." The bills have the support of Planned Parenthood affiliates, law enforcement officials, hospitals and county welfare offices. California Planned Parenthood CEO Katherine Kneer said that in addition to the protections proposed in the bills, pre- and postnatal care should be offered to the women who give up their infants so "we contribute not to just saving the baby, but to the saving of the mother." At least one group has criticized the bills: Project Cuddle, a counseling hotline for pregnant women who are considering abandoning their infants, contends that the state should not be "educating birth mothers on where to abandon their babies." Pointing to a Texas law that protects women who abandon babies, Project Cuddle representatives indicated that not one woman has taken advantage of that law, and there have been nine abandonments since it was enacted last September (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 4/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.