By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 10, 2023
The Senate on Thursday voted 44-0 to strengthen North Carolina’s Safe Surrender Law, making the state a safer place for newborns who find themselves in the care of an overwhelmed parent.
First passed in 2001, the law already allowed a parent to surrender a baby up to a week old without fear of retribution. But Senate Bill 20 would modify its provisions as to who can accept the baby and also add protections for both the surrendering and non-surrendering parents.
“Right now, the law says that you can surrender a child to any adult. We’re very concerned about human trafficking and exploitation of a child. So that would be removed and it would be any health care provider, any emergency management worker, people that are trained and know how to receive these children, how to collect information and how to protect them,” Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) told fellow lawmakers during his presentation of the bill on the Senate floor.
He said in 2020, five children were surrendered under the Safe Surrender Law, but that unfortunately, some three weeks ago, a 27-year-old woman left her newborn beside a railroad track, and he died.
“We want to make sure that women know that they can turn their new infant, seven days or younger, over to someone and we’ll protect their life,” Burgin said.
To be clear, the safe surrender law would not apply if the infant is believed to be more than seven days old or shows signs of abuse or neglect, or if there is reason to believe the person surrendering the infant is not the parent, or there is reason to believe the parent intended to return for the infant.
In addition to explaining those exceptions, the bill outlines the duties of a person taking a surrendered infant, gives rules about confidentiality, and describes procedures that Department of Social Services personnel must follow when they take custody of the baby. It also includes information about the rights of the parent.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, told the Senate Healthcare Committee earlier this week that the changes to the Safe Surrender Law were needed, and that it was a privilege to continue to support a bill that the CAL had helped push through more than two decades ago.
“To my Republican friends, I would suggest Safe Surrender has always been pro-life, and to my Democrat friends, I assert the law seeks to protect a mother who is at the end of her tether and an innocent child who is at risk of losing its life and being tossed aside as a piece of trash,” Creech said.
“Safe Surrender came about because of a tragic incident where a young girl, desperate and afraid, left her newborn in a dumpster in Macon County. The late Sen. Robert Carpenter (R) and Rep. Philip Haire (D), who both represented that district, ran the legislation, and it passed with good bipartisan support,” he added. “The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force was indispensable in shepherding the Safe Surrender law to passage, and the proposed revisions that you have before you in the current bill were recommended by them.”
Sen. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon) echoed Creech’s recognition of Carpenter on the Senate floor following the vote.
“Senator Carpenter, along with our now retired sheriff, Robert Holland, who was a juvenile officer at the time, actually put together this legislation in its original form. And I just wanted to give them a shout-out today for that good work some 20 years ago,” Corbin said.
The bill now goes to the House.