A pair of bills legalizing the use of “baby boxes” in hospitals, as well as fire and police departments, gained bipartisan support to pass both the Michigan House and Senate this past month. However, the bill was vetoed by Republican governor Rick Snyder on December 27th, preventing Michigan from becoming the fourth U.S. state to allow baby boxes.
“This legislation takes the necessary steps to ensure that no mother feels that she has to abandon her child illegally,” Rep. Bronna Kahle, one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill, said in May.
“I do not believe it is appropriate to allow for parents to surrender a baby by simply depositing the baby into a device, rather than physically handing the baby to a uniformed police, fire or hospital employee,” wrote in his veto letter.
These bills, House Bills 5750 and 5751, would have been an expansion of a previous law passed in 2000, which allows a mother to surrender her baby to emergency service providers anonymously within 72 hours of birth, a law which has saved over 200 newborn lives as The Detroit News reports. Specifically, these bills proposed to increase the 72 hour deadline to 30 days and allow a mother to surrender her baby to a specially designed “baby box” instead of requiring her to physically hand her child over to an emergency service provider.
The boxes, designed and installed by Safe Haven Baby Boxes, contain a bassinet, are climate-controlled, and alert 911 seconds after the baby is placed inside. Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, is firefighter and paramedic who herself was abandoned after birth.
“These women love their children, and they want to do what’s best for the child, but they don’t want to be shamed by this tough decision,” Kelsey told OSV after a baby was saved in her hometown of Woodburn, less than a week after the box was installed.
Time will tell if other states continue to adopt these life-saving devices. Perhaps as their safety and effectiveness is further demonstrated, Governor Snyder will stand by the decision of his state’s legislature and reconsider his position.