‘It’s trash’: Opponents upset by legislation to allow prosecution of parents who surrender children

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 9:24 PM CST
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) – A bill introduced by Arkansas lawmakers has people across the country talking.

As it is written now, SB 195 would allow a mother who relinquishes her child under the state’s Safe Haven law, to be charged.

“It’s trash, literally, it’s trash,” said Monica Kelsey, the founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. “It’s completely trying to rewrite the safe haven law and undermining everything that we’ve been working to do for the last 22 years in this country.”

Kelsey expressed her frustration in a now-viral TikTok after learning SB195 would allow a parent to be charged with child abandonment if her or the identity of the child she relinquished is known.

“This is going backwards,” she said in the video. “This is absolutely going backwards.”

Safe Haven Baby Boxes have been distributed across the country, including Arkansas.

Kelsey said if the bill passes, it could keep mothers away from hospitals to give birth safely.

“These parents, these moms, not going to hospitals can get medical care and that’s what this bill is basically saying,” Kelsey said “You go in and you get medical care, we’re going to prosecute you?”

Representative Charlene Fite of District 80 is a primary sponsor of the bill and said criminalization was not the intent of the bill.

“What we’re trying to do is just to make clarifications on what happens in the event that the biological mother’s name suddenly becomes known or becomes public,” the republican said. “It’s not that we would consider that the biological mother had abandoned the child, not at all. It would just be treating the case the same way that it would be with any adoption case”

For Kelsey, the idea of a rewrite is good news, but she’s going to keep a close eye on things.

Representative Fite said the language of the bill will be rewritten and revised.