Originally created 04/03/02

Pass save-baby bill



With just minor differences to be worked out between the Senate and House, it's a virtual certainty Georgia will get a save-the-baby bill OK'd this session. The governor has promised to sign it.

The new law would excuse from legal consequences mothers who leave off their unwanted infants, up to seven days old, at a hospital or other medical facility. The bill became a top priority as reports of abandoned newborns being found in dumpsters, bathrooms and other remote facilities escalated in recent months.

One of the latest such tragedies was the baby boy found March 15 wrapped in plastic bags on the lawn of a McDuffie County apartment complex. Autopsy indicates the infant lived up to 48 hours before dying.

If the mother or accomplices are found, they'll face homicide charges or worse. But under the safe-place-for-newborns bill, they would be exempt from prosecution if they left the baby at a medical facility. The measure also requires the mother to show proof of her identity and address to the person she leaves the child with.

The idea is to encourage mothers who can't or won't care for their newborns to at least give the tots a chance to live. Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, led a small band of opponents to the bill that included Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling.

Seabaugh said he voted against the bill because in his opinion it encouraged "irresponsible behavior." But a woman who carries to term a child she wants to throw away is already acting irresponsibly. Under those conditions, saving the baby's life is the most responsible thing she can do.

The bill's proponents, however, may be overly optimistic if they think the measure will save a lot of lives, because most mothers to whom the law would apply probably won't even know it exists. Yet, if it saves the life of just one infant, it will be worth it.