Loxley, Ala. — (OBA) — In an important stride for infant safety, Alabama’s Safe Haven law is set to expand its protections for surrendered infants. The state’s Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 473, a bill sponsored by freshman Representative Donna Givens (R – Loxley), marking a significant victory for the advocates of child safety.
The current Safe Haven law allows parents to surrender their infants at hospitals within 72 hours of birth. However, the new legislation extends this period to 45 days and authorizes fire stations to receive surrendered newborns, provided they are staffed by emergency medical personnel round the clock.
Givens, a pro-life Christian, stated that the bill aligns with her belief in the sanctity of every child’s life. She expressed her hopes that this legislation will offer safer, more compassionate options for parents unable to care for their babies, ensuring that the infants receive immediate care before finding loving homes. She also appreciated the Department of Human Resources (DHR) for their valuable insights and feedback during the legislative process.
The DHR, overseeing child welfare programs like foster care and adoption, played a crucial role in the bill’s success. Commissioner Nancy Buckner of DHR lauded the bill, asserting that it will reduce the risk of harm to infants by offering parents more choices and more time to surrender newborns safely in times of crisis.
In addition to extending the surrender period, House Bill 473 also allows for the installation of “baby boxes” at hospitals and fire stations. These boxes will enable parents to surrender infants safely and anonymously. The boxes, accessible from inside and outside the approved facilities, lock exterior access once a baby is placed inside, and a silent alarm alerts on-duty first responders to immediately retrieve the child.
A private donor has pledged to fund the first 10 baby boxes, which are to be placed at fire stations near colleges in Baldwin County, Mobile, Auburn, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, the Muscle Shoals area, Dothan, Anniston, and Montgomery.
The bill, passed by the Legislature on June 1, awaits Governor Kay Ivey’s signature. If signed, the law will take effect on Sept. 1st.