Alabama Safe Haven Laws
In Alabama, laws regulating the abandonment of newborns were framed in the year 2000. The foundation for the law was laid down in Alabama’s Mobile County in 1998 pursuant to the tragic story of the baby who was drowned in the toilet by its mother and grandmother.[i] Alabama Code sections 26-25-1 to 26-25-5 govern the abandonment and possession of newborn babies. These laws permit possession of certain abandoned newborns by authorized emergency medical services providers (hospital emergency departments). However, the possession of abandoned babies must be done in accordance with the state laws to be valid.
In Alabama, parents who do not wish to keep their children may abandon them with any emergency medical services providers. The term “Emergency medical service provider” as defined in the Code of Ala. § 26-25-4 refers to hospital emergency departments. The law specifically states:
An emergency medical services provider shall mean a licensed hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, which operates an emergency department. An emergency medical service provider does not include the offices, clinics, surgeries, or treatment facilities of private physicians or dentists. No individual licensed healthcare provider, including physicians, dentists, nurses, physician assistants, or other health professionals shall be deemed to be an emergency medical services provider under this chapter unless such individual voluntarily assumes responsibility for the custody of the child.
Such emergency medical service providers may take possession of abandoned newborns without a court order if the child is not more than 72 hours old, and the abandonment is made voluntarily by the child’s parent with intent not to take back the child. On possession of such newborn, the emergency medical services provider may take care of the new born and provide assistance needed to protect the physical health or safety of the child until responsibility for the newborn is transferred to the Department of Human Resources.[ii]
The emergency medical services provider who has taken possession of the child must notify the Department of Human Resources before the close of the first working day after taking possession.[iii] On receiving notification, the department shall assume the immediate care, control, and custody of the abandoned new born. The department takes the responsibility for paying all medical and other costs associated with the child. The department shall also pay back any cost incurred by the emergency medical service provider for taking care of the newborn before handing it over to the department.
The emergency medical service provider or any other entity subject to the provisions of this chapter shall not be liable for any civil sanction or criminal prosecution for actions taken pursuant to the requirements of law.[iv]
Parents who voluntarily relinquish a newborn to a safe haven have an affirmative defense to prosecution for nonsupport, abandonment, or endangering the welfare of the child.[v]
[ii] Code of Ala. § 26-25-1
[iii] Code of Ala. § 26-25-2
[iv] Code of Ala. § 26-25-5
[v] Code of Ala. § 26-25-3