On March 12, the Iowa House unanimously passed legislation (SF 360) amending Iowa’s Safe Haven law. This law allows a parent – or someone at a parent’s request – to abandon an infant anonymously, under limited circumstances, without being charged with neglect.The Iowa Senate unanimously approved the bill in 2017, so it now goes to Governor Reynolds for her expected signature.
SF 360 makes two major changes to Iowa’s current Safe Haven law, which was passed in 2017. First, the legislation expands the places where a parent may lawfully leave an infant. Current law provides limits places where a newborn infant can only be left to an institutional health facility, which includes a hospital, residential care facility, nursing home, or intermediate care facility. SF 360 offers additional options of leaving a newborn infant with first responders, including:
** An emergency medical care provider
** A registered nurse or physician assistant
** A firefighter or peace officer
The legislation also permits the parent to make telephone contact with a 911 service and relinquish physical custody to a first responder who responds to the call.
Second, SF 360 allows the lawful abandonment of an infant who is or appears to be 30 days old; current law limits lawful abandonment to infants 14 days or younger. According to the federal Children’s Bureau, approximately 19 state Safe Haven laws allow abandonment of infants up to a month old. Only six states allow an infant older than a month to be left under their Safe Haven laws; by contrast, 18 states limit protections to infants no more than either three or seven days old.
As of September 2017, 30 infants have been abandoned pursuant to the Iowa’s Safe Haven law, according to an Iowa DHS press release. Iowa passed its legislation in response to the tragic 2001 death of a newborn at the hands of her 17-year-old mother.