Baby law in need of tweaking
A newborn baby was abandoned Sunday at a Houston fire station. Apparently, this is not acceptable under the Baby Moses Law.
The law allows for unharmed babies younger than 60 days old to be left in the care of a designated emergency infant care provider, such as a hospital, an emergency medical services provider or a child-placing agency licensed by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
The child, however, was left near the station’s air conditioning unit, and by the time personnel found the infant, ants had begun approaching him.
While the Baby Moses Law is in place to protect both child and the person relinquishing rights to him or her, the act does not allow for the best way to drop off a child. While there is a provision in the law allowing for any identifying information of the person dropping off the child to be anonymous, such a person may not know of this clause and choose to leave the baby anywhere near enough to a facility where the baby could be spotted.
While one can appreciate the spirit of the law -†to prevent newborn babies from being left to die in trash cans, dumpster or wherever someone feels compelled to leave a newborn – the law does not grant any leeway in addressing someone who has just given birth to a child and might not be aware of all her resources and simply wants the child to be better off in the hands of a firefighter.
How can someone who has never been to a fire station, while under emotional stress, determine the best place to leave a baby?
After all, anonymity is key in dealing with the situation. A mother who has already decided to give up her baby is already dealing with all kinds of stress due to the pregnancy, which was seemingly unwanted. Imagine her torment if she did come face to face with a firefighter. The mother would have no idea how the firefighter would react when confronted with a newborn baby and the person who is supposed to love him but has chosen to desert him.
This is perhaps why the child was left to the side of the fire station: to avoid human contact for the person dropping off the baby but allow for his discovery. There was no way for the person to discern a private, yet trafficked, section of the fire station in order to leave the baby safely.
An ancient legal doctrine states ignorance of the law is no excuse. Any person wanting to abandon a baby has plenty of time – some nine months – to come up with all viable options and choose the best course when dealing with a baby on the way. Should abandonment be the person’s avenue, it is up to him or her to research how to go about leaving the child with personnel as dictated by the law. This sounds simple enough and it places all responsibility for the child’s welfare on the person delivering the baby to the fire station.
Unfortunately, the above is a perfect scenario and one that cannot be undertaken in every instance where a child is being given up anonymously by his or her parent. The signs posted at hospitals, fire stations and the like indicating that location to be a drop-off for unwanted babies are a fine, but an up-close scrutiny of such a sign is not an act a person can engage in while dealing with a newborn baby. This particular child was left alone, yes, but he was found within hours, not days.
Plastering the press with all sorts of stories proclaiming the person who abandoned this baby is not protected under the law and facing prosecution does nothing to safeguard the well-being of the child. He is in a good place and on his way to a home that will no doubt be warm and able to give the boy more love than he will be know what to do with.
Labeling the person who abandoned this boy a criminal only leads to other scared mothers who had been hoping to leave their child at a fire station to other -†and less hopeful -†options.
This boy was found. He’s healthy and in a better place than underneath the air-conditioning unit where he was left. The mother probably feels bad enough and will live with the reports of how her son was found for the rest of her days. Her guilt and anguish may not be punishment enough in the eyes of the law but the media has put the word out that there are better ways to leave a child. Let that be enough to put a positive spin on this situation in the hopes the next person will hand off their child to a proper caregiver.
Lopez, an English senior, can be reached at the [email protected].