As a direct result of the Christina Fiske case, Representatives Phil Haire (D-Sylva) and Robert (Bob) Carpenter (R-Franklin) introduced a bill into the North Carolina Legislature last Tuesday that would allow parents to abandon their infants in a safe place without threat of criminal penalty.
The bill, entitled the Infant Homicide Prevention Act, states that a health care provider at a hospital or health department, a law enforcement officer, an emergency medical technician at a fire station, a social services worker, or any responsible adult may take into custody any infant under 15 days old, as long as it is given to the individual by a parent who has expressed no intent to return for the infant. The individual to which the infant is given must then be responsible for the “health and well-being” of the infant and notify the department of social services about the matter.Under the proposed law, any parent who abandons an infant in such a way cannot be prosecuted for any civil or criminal penalty relating to the care of the infant. By providing that parents of unwanted infants may leave them in the custody of any adult whom they deem responsible, said Carpenter, the bill provides for those parents who may not feel comfortable bringing an infant to places such as a county health department or a hospital.
Carpenter expressed concern for mothers who do not wish to or are unable to care for children who are the result of unplanned pregnancies.
“Women having babies out of wedlock are put in an awkward position,” said Carpenter. “These women really aren’t criminals.”
Carpenter also mentioned that Fiske had worked as a page in his office seven years ago, and that everyone on his staff who remembered her was saddened by the news that she had been accused of killing her infant.
He mentioned that over 1,000 names are on a waiting list in North Carolina for those who wish to adopt a child. The bill is currently in committee, which will hopefully give it a favorable report, said Carpenter. If the committee does give the act a favorable report, it will be brought to the floor for a vote, possibly at the end of this month.
If the bill is passed in both the North Carolina House and Senate, it will become law and will become effective immediately, rather than the December 1, 2001 date which is written as the effective date in the last section of the bill.
As a condition of the bill, the North Carolina General Assembly has allocated a total of $300,000 for the next two fiscal years for a media campaign to inform the people of North Carolina about the provisions of the bill.