Indiana is considering introducing "baby boxes," which would aim to facilitate the safe surrender of newborns.

The boxes are really small metal incubators, equipped with weight sensors that alert authorities to come get any child dropped off. It's a kind of upgrade to existing Safe Haven laws, which allow parents to hand over their unharmed children at designated locations like hospitals, without repercussions. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Dawn Geras, president of the Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation in Chicago, said safe haven laws have resulted in more than 2,800 safe surrenders since 1999. But more than 1,400 other children have been found illegally abandoned, nearly two-thirds of whom died.

Cox said his proposal draws on a centuries-old concept to help "those children that are left in the woods, those children that are abandoned in dangerous places."

It's not a new idea—apparently, it goes back to convents in the Middle Ages. They're also known as baby hatches, and they already exist in Europe and Asia. But some argue they're essentially a way to ignore the deeper problems that lead to abandonment. Last year a baby hatch in China had to close, because there were simply too many babies. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child opposes them, and Geras points out there are problems with the approach:

Geras said many parents who surrender their children at safe haven sites need medical care that they won't get if they leave the baby in a box. Handing the child to a trained professional also provides an opportunity to determine whether the mother simply needs financial support or other help to develop a parenting plan.

"If you use a baby box, you have stripped away that option," Geras said. "There's a lot of things that need to be done to improve safe haven laws throughout the country, but that's not one of them."

The bill has already passed the state House and is headed to the Senate.


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