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State law allows moms to abandon newborns

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other officials are working to raise awareness of a state law passed last summer which protects people who abandon their newborn infants in safe places.

“The overriding priority in addressing the issue of infant abandonment is to protect the safety of the child,” Giuliani said. “As a result of this law, a person who makes the decision to give up their child has an affirmative defense so long as the infant is delivered safely to an appropriate place.”

The city is running television commercials about the new law, listing the number 866-505-SAFE for more information. In Queens, most of the designated spots are hospitals and fire houses. The Queens district attorney’s office is currently compiling a complete list.

An affirmative defense, meaning one cannot be prosecuted, for crimes of abandonment is created when children up to five days old are dropped off at these places and an appropriate adult is notified of the child’s location.

After the Abandoned Infant Protection Act was signed into law last July, Giuliani formed a subcommittee of the Child Abuse Task Force to coordinate infant protection policies and public outreach among numerous city agencies, including all five district attorneys.

Giuliani spoke about the law in the Blue Room at City Hall Friday, where he was joined by state Sen. Nancy Lorraine Hoffman (R-Syracuse), the author of the Abandoned Infant Protection Act.

“I have been working on this issue for more than 20 years and I can say this is the most progressive law in the nation,” Hoffman said. “We are saying to women that New York has a no-questions asked policy about their pregnancy as long as their infant is left at any safe place within five days of birth.”

The mayor was joined by Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and other city officials.

“We hope this new state law will save the lives of many newborns who are abandoned every year,” Scoppetta said. “It provides troubled parents with a safe way to give up their newborns without causing them harm.”

He added, “Administration for Children’s Services is working cooperatively with several other city agencies and other groups to ensure that people are aware of the new legislation and that the safe-abandonment system works quickly and effectively on a citywide basis.”

Earlier this year a 15-year-old South Jamaica girl was arrested and charged in connection with the death of her newborn baby girl.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the case was a perfect example of a tragedy that might have been prevented had the young mother known where she could safely leave her newborn.

Instead the 15-year-old mother was charged April 28 with manslaughter for allegedly suffocating her child, who was born Feb. 14.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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