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Georgia Safe Haven Laws

Safe Haven law, also known in several states as the “Baby Moses” law, is the popular name for United States laws that decriminalize leaving unharmed infants with statutorily designated private persons so that the child becomes a ward of the state.  Many State legislatures have enacted legislation to address infant abandonment and infanticide in response to the alarming rate of increase in the abandonment of infants.

The Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002 was enacted by the General Assembly of Georgia with the express purpose of preventing injuries to and deaths of newborn children that are caused by the acts of mothers who abandon their newborns.[i]  The Act was brought into effect on May 15, 2002.

The Act defines the term “medical facility” as “any licensed general or specialized hospital, institutional infirmary, health center operated by a county board of health, or facility where human births occur on a regular and ongoing basis which is classified by the Department of Community Health as a birthing center, but shall not mean physicians’ or dentists’ private offices.”[ii]

In Georgia, a mother shall not be prosecuted for leaving her newborn child in the physical custody of an employee, agent, or member of the staff of a medical facility, provided that the newborn child is no more than one week old and the mother shows proof of her identity, if available, to the person with whom the newborn is left and provides her name and address.[iii]  The mother who leaves her newborn child at the medical facility shall not be prosecuted for the crimes of cruelty to her child, contributing to the delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation of her child, or abandonment of her dependent child.[iv]

A medical facility which accepts a child left by its mother shall be reimbursed by the Department of Human Services for all reasonable medical and other reasonable costs associated with the child prior to the child being placed in the care of the Department.[v]  Once a medical facility reports that a child has been placed in its custody, the Department of Human Services has a duty to investigate the details of the child left with the medical facility and report the same to the General Assembly.[vi]  The report should also include the desirability and cost effectiveness of a dedicated toll-free telephone line for providing information to and answering questions from the public and employees and staff members of medical facilities concerning the child.[vii]

The medical facility shall notify the Department of Human Services at the time the child is left at the medical facility, and at the time the child is medically ready for discharge.[viii]  Upon notification that the child is medically ready for discharge, the Department of Human Services shall take physical custody of the child within six hours.[ix]  The Department shall then promptly bring the child before the juvenile court.[x]

Medical facilities and their employees, agents, and staff members shall not be liable for civil damages or subject to criminal prosecution for failure to discharge their duties unless; they negligently treated the child that was taken into custody.[xi]

[i] O.C.G. § 19-10A-3

[ii] O.C.G. § 19-10A-2

[iii] O.C.G. § 19-10A-4

[iv] O.C.G. § 19-10A-4

[v] O.C.G. § 19-10A-6

[vi] O.C.G. § 19-10A-5

[vii] O.C.G. § 19-10A-5

[viii] O.C.G. § 19-10A-6

[ix] O.C.G. § 19-10A-6

[x] O.C.G. § 19-10A-6

[xi] O.C.G. § 19-10A-7

Inside Georgia Safe Haven Laws