Safe Surrender of Infants — Again

Give Assemblyman Alberto Torrico an “A” for effort: His fourth attempt to increase beyond 72 hours California’s safe surrender of children was approved June 3 by the lower house on a bipartisan vote.

The three previous attempts by the Fremont Democrat to increase the amount of time in which parents can give up their children without penalty have been vetoed by GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“This is a pro-life bill that will save babies,” Torrico said of the measure, AB 1048, which would extend the time period to 30 days.

Torrico contends a longer period to surrender babies will lead to less abandonment. North Dakota and Missouri, for example, give parents up to one year.

Thirty-three states have surrender periods of seven days or more.

During the debate over the measure, Assemblyman Joel Anderson, an El Cajon Republican, countered that statistics show “babies that go beyond 72 hours are misused and abused. If you wait 30 days, these babies are going to die in your arms.” 

Since the safe surrender law was enacted in 2000, 251 babies have been surrendered through June of last year. But the State Auditor found that more than 400 babies were illegally abandoned.

Torrico’s 2008 and 2007 bills on the same subject extended the time period to seven days.

In his veto message of the 2007 bill, Schwarzenegger echoed Anderson’s comments on the Assembly floor.

“The current 72-hour period contained in law allows for a no-questions-asked safe surrender of a newborn, and is supported by research and statistics which indicate that most neonaticide occurs within the first day,” the GOP governor wrote.

“Experts have raised concerns that instead of improving child safety, increasing the time that a baby may be surrendered from 72 hours will put newborns in greater risk by keeping them in an unsafe environment without proper care and supervision.”

Torrico has a companion bill, AB 1049, which passed the Assembly June 2. The bill would create a voluntary tax check-off. Monies donated by taxpayers would be used to increase awareness of the safe surrender law.

There are currently 15 check-offs ranging from Alzheimer’s disease prevention to seniors to ovarian cancer to sea otters. The Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fund received $505,000 in taxpayer contributions in 2008 and nearly $334,000 through April of this year, for example. The sea otters only got $154,000.

A number of the voluntary contribution funds are subject to a minimum level of contribution. If the fund doesn’t reach it – initially a $250,000 minimum, now adjusted upward for inflation – it gets stricken from state tax forms. Some check-offs are placed on the form for a finite period of time and then are repealed.

The California Colorectal Cancer Prevention Fund check-off became subject to the $250,000 minimum contribution in 2007 and fell well short receiving only $126,000 from taxpayers.  The California Sexual Violence Victims Services Fund also met a similar fate in 2007, receiving just under $185,000 — $65,000 short of the minimum.




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