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New bill ignites "Baby Box" debate

Posted at 5:02 AM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 05:14:38-05

LANSING, Mich. — They're called "baby boxes."

A bill passed last night by the Michigan senate would allow them here in Michigan.

The legislation would allow parents to anonymously abandon their newborns in boxes placed outside of hospitals or fire departments.

But not everyone thinks they're safe.

The new bill is an extension of Michigan’s "safe delivery" law, which legally allows parents to abandon their newborns, but only in-person.

Supporters say the baby boxes will save lives but critics say they pose too much of a safety risk.

"This is the right thing to do to guarantee the safety of the child, but to also ensure that no mother has to feel the shame of abandoning their child," said Bronna Kahle, 57th district Representative.

With the installation of a baby box, parents could legally and anonymously abandon their child.

Once a baby is placed inside the box, it locks and sends a call out to first responders.

The child is then put up for adoption.

If passed, Michigan would be the fourth to implement the baby box law, joining Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The proposal doesn't sit well with everyone, though. Some argue that there's a better way.

"This bill is coming from a good place," said Senator Adam Hollier. "They're trying to create a safe space for the child, but they're not doing it the right way. A child sitting by itself in a box is unacceptable."

Fortunately, a child doesn't stay in the box for long.

"The response time has been 3-5 minutes in the states where we have this which is amazing," said Kahle.

The box is also equipped with heating and cooling features, to make sure that the baby is comfortable.

Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, who was abandoned as a child herself, says it's tough to blame parents who abandon their kids.

"It’s not that these parents don't love their child," she said. "They're just in a situation that none of us can understand. Our organization has no judgement, and we won't start now."

Legislators like Hollier are hopeful that they can find another way to help parents safely abandon their kids.

"It’s frightening to me," he said. "I couldn't imagine dealing with that, much less the idea of putting a baby in a box like you're returning a Redbox or mail. It just doesn't make sense."

Kelsey told FOX 47 News that since the beginning of 2018, Safe Haven Baby Boxes has received 27 phone calls from Michigan residents wanting to know how to surrender a child.

She believes having baby boxes gives people an option that they don't have right now.