Missouri Senate bill would extend safe harbor period by 40 days

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 7:02 p.m. CDT; updated 7:13 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 16, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — Parents could choose to give up their newborn babies without legal consequences up to 45 days after birth under a bill endorsed by the Missouri Senate on Tuesday.

The measure would extend the state's "safe harbor" period, which currently allows parents to turn over babies up within a five day window.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, who sponsored the measure, said it would protect infants from being abused and neglected. It also would give school districts the option to hold a half-hour health education class on the ability to securely give a baby away.

"We are trying to make sure our students know that if they are in this situation that this is an option," Silvey, R-Kansas City, said.

Under current law, parents can hand over a baby to medical professionals, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or law enforcement officers. Silvey's bill would add maternity homes and pregnancy resource centers to that list.

The new process would also allow parents to keep secret their identity or the identity of the child private. It also would prevent law enforcement from seeking that information, a policy that concerned one Republican senator. Sen. Rob Schaaf, a physician from St. Joseph, tried unsuccessfully to remove the privacy protection from the bill. He said knowing a child's family history could be necessary in providing future medical care.

The bill also includes a provision requiring students attending a public university to be vaccinated for meningitis if they live in on-campus housing and do not have religious objections. It needs one more vote before moving to the House.

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