Originally created 02/21/00

Vote to save tots

One reason lawyers usually find themselves at the low end of popularity polls is that many are experts at finding reasons not to do things that everybody else wants to do.

Typical of that is legislation being considered in the Georgia House that calls for not punishing distraught moms who leave their unwanted newborns at hospitals or police stations.

To be sure, it's terribly distressing (and a measure of our insensitive, amoral times) that such legislation must be considered at all. But the grim reality is babies are being tossed in dumpsters, abandoned in wooded areas or left in bathroom commodes where they often aren't found until it's too late.

H.B. 1365 would encourage the wretched mothers who can't take care of their babies to drop the tots off at a safe place where they could be saved. The legislation ought to be a no-brainer.

Society has a much greater interest in saving the newborn than it does in punishing the mother. You might think so, but the House Judiciary Committee, packed with attorneys, isn't so sure.

Though the panelists say they agree with the intent of H.B. 1365, they see "complications." (When lawyers talk about "complications" it's usually the kiss of death.) The bill is modeled after a similar program in two Alabama counties where the district attorney has made it known he will not prosecute such cases.

Specifically, the measure would allow a parent to leave a baby that's no more than three days old with an employee of a hospital or law enforcement agency and walk away without giving her name.

But could a baby be left with a volunteer who's technically not a hospital employee? What about a laundry worker who is? What rights would fathers and other family members have when they don't know the mother is giving up her child anonymously?

These are the kinds of questions Judiciary members are asking themselves. Talk about getting wrapped around the legal axle.

Even so, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Martin, D-Atlanta, says they expect to have the answers in time for a vote scheduled for today.

Let's hope so. It shouldn't take a law degree to straighten these issues out -- just a good old-fashioned dose of common sense.


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