Frankfort–A Kentucky lawmaker is proposing legislation that would add churches to the list of safe havens where unwanted babies can be dropped off without law enforcement being notified.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, welcomed the proposed legislation.
“Kentucky Baptists are committed to doing everything we can to care for hurting families and hurting children,” Chitwood said.
“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,” he said. “We want to help.”
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperating group of nearly 2,400 churches in Kentucky.
The bill, proposed by Representative Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, adds staffed churches to Kentucky Safe Infants Act that went into effect in April 2002. The current law considers only police, fire and ambulance stations that are staffed, and hospital emergency rooms as safe havens.
Under the current law, 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.”
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 Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates.
Baptists aren’t the only religious group that favors the proposed legislation.
“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,” said Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
The legislation also would give immunity from both civil and criminal prosecution for the person or persons who accept the baby at a safe haven. (KBC)