A new law to allow the installation of safe haven baby boxes in hospitals and fire stations passed through a Senate committee on Wednesday. Sponsor Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) and Monica Kelsey from Save Haven Baby Box, Inc. presented the legislation before a packed committee room.
Under current Arkansas law, a person can surrender their baby to a hospital or fire station without any legal recourse, but must do so in person. Kelsey testified that the legislation and baby boxes would allow 100% anonymity to women who want to give up their baby safely. The boxes would be paid for entirely from private funds.
Kelsey spoke in committee about the importance of these boxes. Her birth mother was raped and left on the road to die. Kelsey’s birth mother abandoned her just two hours after her birth.
The baby boxes can be placed in the outer walls of hospitals and fire stations. The boxes open from the outside, locks when the baby is placed inside, and access to the baby is on the other side of the wall inside the hospital or fire station. A 911 emergency call is placed automatically when the baby is placed inside. An alarm is also sounded inside the building the box is located.
According to Kelsey, response time to the box has ranged from 90 seconds to 4 minutes. There is also a 24-hour hotline labeled on the boxes. The number of babies found dead has decreased in every state the baby boxes have been used.
Arkansas Right to Life supported the bill and held a press conference allowing legislators and others to see one of the safe haven baby boxes. You can watch that press conference and see how the box works HERE
The bill does not mandate the boxes be installed, but allows those who want them to install them. An amendment to the bill to more regularly test the boxes will be added to the bill moving forward. The bill will now head to the Senate floor.