Bill to expand newborn protection law headed to governor

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Legislation to expand the places where parents may leave newborn babies under the state’s newborn protection law is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature.

The state House voted 188-0 this week to concur with Senate amendments to House Bill 1139.

The measure would allow a parent to leave a newborn less than 29 days old with an emergency services provider, such as an EMT or paramedic, at fire and EMS stations and other places that employ or provide access to emergency services providers.

The emergency services provider would have to ensure the newborn is taken to a hospital.

The Senate amendment requires fire and EMS stations that accept newborns to post signs for at least the first 18 months indicating newborns can be left at the site.

Currently, Pennsylvania law allows parents to relinquish newborns only to medical staff at hospitals and police officers at police stations. The parents cannot be held criminally liable unless the newborn has been abused or is the victim of a crime.

The bill also allows hospitals, police stations, and emergency services providers to install incubators so that newborns can be surrendered anonymously and kept safely in a controlled environment.

Should an infant be left in an incubator, a 911 call would be automatically triggered if an onsite response isn’t made within a reasonable time.

Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton) said his bill “better protects newborns and ensures families have options in the most desperate of circumstances.”

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