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Bill focused on preventing newborn abandonment passes out of State Senate

Summary

The adopted bill requires the Washington Department of Social and Human Services to collect and compile info and publicly report it annually

Story

The Washington State Senate adopted legislation to improve reporting of incidents of newborn abandonment. The legislation focuses on efforts to continue raising public awareness efforts about Washington State’s protections for newborn babies with the goal of saving the lives of newborns. Sponsored by Senators Guy Palumbo, Joe Fain, and Sharon Nelson, it received Senate approval on June 13.

“This bill is a necessary step towards understanding and identifying where and why newborn children are being abandoned,” said Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby and prime sponsor of SB 5522. “Hopefully with this legislation we can empower cities to inform potential parents of all of their options and prevent the tragedies that occur when a newborn is abandoned.”

“We know there are a variety of circumstances that lead to a parent not being able or willing to care for their newborn child,” said Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn, co-sponsor of the measure. “Better understanding those reasons will help us more effectively share safe surrender alternatives with the public, improving overall health and outcomes for surrendered newborns.”

On February 12, 2014, an infant named Baby Kimball, after the bridge near where she was found, died wrapped in a blanket in the woods less than a half a mile from a hospital near the city of North Bend. Since her death, the King County Council has been actively working to examine ways to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“Washington State Law already protects the safe surrender of newborns, this bill would just allow us to more effectively raise awareness about those protections to at-risk populations,” said King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn, advocate of the legislation.

“To help prevent future tragedies, including the death of newborns, it is crucial to have current and accurate data to guide public outreach strategies,” said County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who was the prime sponsor of the original safe haven legislation in 2002 while a member of the state Legislature. “This bill will continue our efforts to educate struggling parents who are unable to care for a newborn on the law that allows them to safely surrender their child without fear of prosecution or repercussions. I urge the House of Representatives to take action.”

The King County Safety of Newborn Children Task Force (Task Force) was created to address how Washington State’s Safety of Newborn Children Act could be better implemented across the county.

The adopted bill requires the Washington Department of Social and Human Services to collect and compile info and publicly report it annually.

In Washington state, parents can leave newborns with qualified individuals at hospitals, fire stations or federally designated rural health clinics. The Safety of Newborn Children Law allows parents to do this anonymously up to 72 hours after the birth of a child without fear of prosecution for abandonment.

The legislation will now go to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
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