Iowa law aims to save the lives of newborn babies - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa law aims to save the lives of newborn babies


Hospital workers are reminding Iowans about a law aimed at protecting the lives of newborn children.

This week, investigators officially charged a Story County woman with two counts of murder. Officers believe 22-year-old Jackie Burkle killed her newborn twin girls.

In Mason City, police continue their search for a premature baby. Officers found a placenta and umbilical cord in a public bathroom over the weekend. They believe a 19-year-old Charles City woman is the mother, but have not charged her with any crime.

In light of these reports, healthcare providers are getting the word out: scared parents do have options. The Iowa Safe Haven Act was enacted in 2001, giving a parent the right to surrender a newborn child at any healthcare facility -- no questions asked.

The Iowa Safe Haven Act isn't implemented very often. But as Teresa Horak, Director of Women's and Children's Services at Covenant Medical Center explains, when a parent feels like they are out of options it becomes one of the most important laws on Iowa books.

"The intent of the law is to provide parents the ability to bring their baby someplace safely if they find out they aren't able to care for it once they have it home, or they don't want to be known or don't want anybody to know they had a baby," she said.

She said, the need for the law is all the more evident after hearing reports of what is happening in Story County and Mason City this week.

"It is important that there is a safe place for someone to take their baby so that sort of thing does not have to happen," said Horak.

A scared parent can drop their child off with any medical staff member at any Iowa hospital. Horak said, under the law, they could leave their child anywhere on the healthcare facility property, as long as they call 911 and tell the dispatcher exactly where the child is located.

"They can really bring a baby with no questions asked, and no fear of legal actions or ramifications within the first 14 days of life," she explained.

As Horak pointed out, there are many couples unable to conceive a child on their own. And this law gives them a chance to adopt a baby that someone else is not able to raise.

In the decade since the Safe Haven Act took effect, fourteen newborns were left in the care of workers at Iowa hospitals. Covenant Medical Center has not had any infants surrendered under the law. Horak believes the rate would be much greater if more people were educated about the Safe Haven Act.

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