Proposed bill for 2016 Regular Session would add churches to list of safe havens
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Representative Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester (73rd District), announced today she will sponsor legislation in the 2016 Regular Session that if passed would add churches to the list of safe havens under the Kentucky Safe Infants Act, which allows parents to leave an infant three days old or less at certain locations without law enforcement being notified.
Under Bill Request 189 churches that are staffed would be included as a safe haven under the original law that went into effect in April 2002. Currently only police, fire and ambulance stations that are staffed, and hospital emergency rooms are considered safe havens under the law. Under the Kentucky Safe Infants Act, after a baby has been left with a person at a safe haven, they are required to seek medical treatment at a hospital. After the baby is treated, contact is made with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. If the biological parent or parents do not contact the cabinet within 30 days, legal proceedings are taken to involuntarily end their parental rights, and the cabinet will put the child up for adoption.
"Often when a person is in a situation where they believe there is no hope for them or their child, they will seek comfort and relief at a local church," said Rep. Mayfield. "Because of what the church represents in those situations, especially in cases where a parent wants to give up their newborn baby, they should be included as a safe haven under Kentucky law to protect the life of the child, and the identity of the parents."
Rep. Mayfield's bill is supported by child advocate groups and religious organizations across the Commonwealth.
"We at Kentucky Youth Advocates believe every child deserves a family in which they can be safe and nurtured. This bill recognizes the important role faith communities can play in achieving that reality," said Dr. Terry Brooks, Executive Director at Kentucky Youth Advocates.
"Particularly in rural areas that are currently underserved, this bill has the potential to provide essential, even life-saving options for young women in very difficult circumstances," added Jason D. Hall, Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
"Kentucky Baptists are committed to doing everything we can to care for hurting families and hurting children," said Dr. Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. "Our churches would not only be willing to be drop off points under a Safe Haven Law, they would want to be that kind of refuge for mothers and children in a time of crisis. We want to help."
BR 189 also adds a Good Samaritan section to the Kentucky Safe Infants Act, which gives immunity from both civil and criminal prosecution for the person or persons who accept the baby at a safe haven.