Nebraska governor calls special legislative session to amend 'safe haven' law

[JURIST] Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman [official website] announced Wednesday he is calling a special session of the state legislature on November 14 to amend Nebraska's so-called 'safe haven' law [LB 157 text, PDF]. The law, which went into effect in July, was intended to protect infants and prohibits prosecution of parents when a child is left in a licensed hospital. Under broad interpretation of the term "child," however, parents have legally abandoned several children in their late teens. Since July, nearly two dozen children have been dropped off in hospitals, and Nebraska lawmakers have said that the law is too broad [JURIST report]. In a press release [text], the governor said:

This law needs to be changed to focus on its original intent, which is to protect infants...A proposed three day safe haven law that the legislature has agreed to will be introduced by Speaker Flood on my behalf.
The new law will only permit parents to drop off children up to three days old. The New York Times has more. The Omaha Newsstand has local coverage.

Nebraska was the last of the fifty US states to enact its infant safe haven law [Child Welfare Information Gateway backgrounder], but all of the others apply strictly to children under one year old. Nationwide, there are different requirements for what constitutes a "safe haven:" in some states, like Nebraska, infants may only be relinquished to a hospital; in others, licensed personnel at emergency medical services, police stations, and fire stations can accept infants. In most states, once the safe haven provider has informed the local child services department that an infant has been abandoned, the department takes responsibility for the child and petitions the court for termination of the parent's parental rights.


 

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