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State Lawmakers Could Legalize Abandonment of Babies in a Safe Place

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DURHAM — North Carolina lawmakers are considering new legislation to make abandoning a baby legal -- if the baby is left with proper care.

State officials say that since 1985, 22 babies have died in North Carolina after being abandoned by their mothers.

A proposal that could become law would allow mothers to abandon their babies without facing criminal charges.

Supporters say it is better than the alternatives.

Mary Doghmi did not expect to be pregnant at age 19. She is looking forward to the birth of her son any day now.

She believes mothers who cannot take care of their babies should be able to leave them somewhere safe.

"If they can't take care of a child, they should be able to do that. But I feel, if you can't take care of a child, you shouldn't get pregnant in the first place," says Doghmi.

Mimi Every knows unexpected pregnancies happen all the time. She runs a counseling center in Durham and says many of the young women she sees are simply overwhelmed.

"It's difficult to be a single parent, to raise a child. Abortion is a difficult option, adoption is a difficult option. There are no easy answers in an unplanned pregnancy," she says.

Those difficult choices sometimes lead to tragedy:
  • September 1997: a mother dumped her newborn daughter in some bushes in Cary. Baby Hailey was nursed back to health at Rex Hospital.
  • October 1997: the body of a baby girl was found in a dumpster at Fort Bragg.
  • March 1999: Baby Michael was thrown into a ditch and left to die in Cumberland County.North Carolina lawmakers could follow the lead of 27 other states where it is now legal to leave a baby at a hospital or with a responsible adult like a police officer.
  • "If she's leaving her child in a safe place and she's thought a little bit about safety for her child, why should she be prosecuted," asks Every.

    A Guilford County lawmaker will introduce the Abandoned Infant Protection Act during the current short session.

    Supporters say in order for the law to work, mothers have to truly believe they will not be prosecuted.


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