Costa Howard introduces bill to enable 911 dispatch for safe rescue of relinquished newborns

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LOMBARD – State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, today introduced HB4699, which will make it possible for a person who wants to relinquish a newborn baby to call 911 and ask for a first responder to take the infant to safety, with no questions asked.

The new bill would amend Illinois’ Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, which allows an unharmed newborn, up to 30 days old, to be handed over to staff at a hospital, emergency medical care facility, police station, firehouse, college/university police station, or Illinois State Police district headquarters, without fear of prosecution.

“When a baby is born in desperate circumstances, we need to do everything we can to make it possible for a new mother to relinquish that infant safely, legally, and responsibly,” Costa Howard said. “Just a few weeks ago, an infant died of exposure after being left outside an unstaffed firehouse in Chicago. With this bill, we can prevent that kind of tragic loss by making it possible to call a first responder to come in and take the baby to safety.”

Under the bill, a 911 dispatcher could send a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician to respond to a call from a parent who is unable or unwilling to travel to a firehouse or other designated location to relinquish an infant.

“Since the Safe Haven law went into effect in 2001, 148 babies have been relinquished safely,” said Dawn Geras, one of the founders of the Chicago-based Save Abandoned Babies Foundation. “Sadly, there have been 90 illegal abandonments since then, and more than half of those infants died. We hope this new law will help to prevent any more needless infant deaths.”

Costa Howard said she hopes this bill will bring more public attention to the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. “We need to make sure that people know this law saves infants’ lives and also protects parents from potential criminal charges,” Costa Howard said. “Together, we can find safe new homes for these babies and bring new help to people in crisis.

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