Lawmakers add churches to Kentucky Safe Haven Law
Mothers would be able to leave unwanted newborns at churches, in addition to hospitals, police, fire and EMS stations
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Giving desperate mothers more options for giving up newborns they don't want to keep: that’s the idea behind a bill passed by the Kentucky General Assembly that adds churches to the state's Safe Haven law.
Mothers who decide to give up their newborn children would be able come to certain churches without fear of prosecution.
Westport Road Baptist Church has been operating a day care center for decades. Pastor Chip Pendleton says it would make sense to also become a Safe Haven where mothers could leave their unwanted newborns.
"That child is valuable. That child is important. And anything we can do to provide a safe environment for that child would be something our church would be very interested in being a part of," Pendleton said.
Right now mothers can hand their newborns over in emergency rooms, police, fire and EMS stations. Kentucky lawmakers have now expanded the program to include churches.
"It has to be posted that the church has accepted the responsibility to accept these children. It has to have an office that's staffed. Then you physically hand it over to another person at that location," said State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville.)
The church would then contact authorities.
Adams attached the Safe Haven amendment to another bill to expedite passage through the Republican Senate. The Democratic House later agreed. It had already passed a similar bill authored by Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville.)
Lawmakers have also extended the time during which mothers can leave their newborns from three days after birth to 30.
"I think anytime that you can expand the ability to keep kids safe in our community, then that's a very good thing," said Adams.
Churches would have to volunteer for the program and display signs indicating they are a safe haven for babies.
Pastor Pendleton says expanding the available options would be good for both child and mother.
"The parent is going through a lot of different emotions. And just to have the thought, 'I know that there's a place that I can leave this child, and the child is going to be safe,'" said Pendleton.
Since Kentucky's original Safe Haven law passed in 2002, 38 infants have been legally left behind.
Governor Matt Bevin is expected to sign the bill.
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