Lawful Surrender

Legislation currently in progress in South Australia –
7 March 2013 – Children’s Protection (Lawful Surrender of Newborn Child) Amendment Bill
Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (11:22): I am very grateful that the Hon. Ann Bressington has given me the opportunity to progress this bill in the House of Assembly. I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to establish means by which women and young girls can safely, anonymously and legally relinquish their newborn babies up to 60 days old. The mother may either surrender her baby physically to a medical practitioner or nurse in a hospital or clinic, or a hospital may install a specially designed hatch into which a mother can place her child, setting off an alarm that will alert medical staff to the baby’s presence.
The baby is then placed under the guardianship of the minister and the minister must, as soon as practicable, take action to enable the child to be adopted. The baby’s birth parents may apply for the return of the child, subject to conditions, while the child is under the guardianship of the minister.
A review of the legislation is to be undertaken by the parliament’s Social Development Committee within three years of its operation. Variants on the model provided in this bill are now in place in Canada, many states in the United States of America, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic.
In 2011, the Victorian government agreed to undertake research on behalf of the Community and Disability Services Ministerial Council to identify options that are currently available to respond to the issue of abandoned and relinquish babies. That research has taken place.
This bill passed the second reading in the Legislative Council on 23 November, with the support of the Liberal Party, the Greens and Family First. The government indicated its opposition to the bill. That was in 2011. After the prorogation of the parliament, Ms Bressington reintroduced the bill and it passed the Legislative Council later last year.
The research paper prepared for the ministerial council was noted at its most recent meeting. It has not been publicly released, but a copy obviously must have fallen off the back of a truck because it made its way into debate in the Legislative Council. The paper included a literature review, an analysis of the current approach to child abandonment and provided some analysis of responses, such as baby safe havens. The paper concluded, and I quote:
While acknowledging the limited data and research available in the area of child abandonment, the paper has provided a discussion of three approaches taken internationally in response to the abandonment of children.
The current Australian approach to abandoned children is to fund services aimed at pregnancy education and support for parents. The limited reporting of child abandonment in Australia could be seen to demonstrate that a strong universal, secondary and specialist service system is effective in managing the incidence of child abandonment.
Anonymous birthing, where women are able to give birth anonymously in a hospital, is in place in a limited number of European States. There is, however, debate regarding the relative merits of this approach and the potential negative effects upon both women and children.
That is, I think, the basis on which the government has indicated its opposition. However, in discussing the lack of data in relation to the experience of baby safe havens, the paper did note, and I quote:
It is important to note…that while unsafe abandonment has continued in the US, some children were abandoned safely and without harm. This may not have been the case without the existence of the legislation. The baby safe haven can be seen to provide an option for some mothers in a time of great need. In addition, these children do find permanent homes with adoptive families.
Dr Lorana Bartels of the University of Canberra did an academic paper on this bill in 2012. Dr Bartels concluded:
The options discussed will never eliminate all instances of baby abandonment/neonaticide, and there are practical and theoretical problems associated with the introduction and use of such measures internationally. Any model will…need to be appropriately publicised if it is to have any effect, and data on its operation need to be maintained…to determine the effect, if not the effectiveness, of the initiative. The model should also provide counselling…
She went on to say:
Within this context, however, it is suggested that safe haven laws, baby hatches and/or anonymous birth may serve to empower women who find themselves dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. They may also, if carefully implemented and audited, have a beneficial, albeit probably limited, impact on the Australian child welfare and criminal justice landscape.
It is in that context that the opposition supports the bill of the Hon. Ann Bressington. It is in that context that the opposition hopes the government will reconsider its opposition in the Legislative Council. An Amendment to the Childrens Protection Act for lawful surrender of infants – As the ministerial council paper concluded, and as Dr Lorana Bartels concluded (although she was more outwardly supportive), there is very little negative effect that this law could possibly have.
However, there is a possible positive effect that a young baby’s life may be saved. There have been examples that have been all too regular—not that often, but even one is too regular—of babies being abandoned and dying. If those mothers had an option that would be provided by this legislation, those babies’ lives may have been saved.
It has been identified in the United States and those other countries I have mentioned that there have been few—but some—children whose lives have definitely been saved through the advancement of this sort of legislation in those jurisdictions. If one child’s life was saved and there were no negative consequences from a bill such as this, then surely it would be worth passing.
So, with that in mind, I commend this bill to the house. I thank the Hon. Ann Bressington for giving me the opportunity to lead the debate on this bill in the House of Assembly. I hope that all members will have an opportunity to reflect on this matter, although I suspect that, with one minute of private members’ bills left, we may not get much further in the debate today”

John Gardner spoke movingly at the SA Apology. He has a sister who was/is adopted and understands some of the concepts of adoption well. He tells me this amendment is not about promoting adoption, but about ensuring no lives are lost when babies are dumped. Since this so rarely happens in our State, if ever, it seems there are more urgent pieces of legislation to deal with, such as vetoes. There are well over 100 adoptees vetoed currently, more like 150 and I don’t have the exact figure, although 153 seems to come to mind. Those vetoes are renewed every five years and mothers given an opportunity to rethink their decision. It seems few change their minds, leaving the adoptees forever in limbo.
Babies dumped, even if safely, are forever in limbo too, shouldn’t we be thinking more about how to prevent that, how to ensure identity is valued and no woman or girl becomes pregnant or engages in a pregnancy if it is not desirable? Isn’t it time to make sure everyone knows ‘the facts of life’, including middle-aged white men of privilege, and others, who still think the morning after pill causes abortion? It is always an emotive area of human life. If we allowed only those who are directly affected to decide what is right for them, how much simpler and less messy it would be!
Some links –
Some factsThe morning after pill must be taken within 72 hours of sex
It works by preventing implantation of the egg in the womb
If the egg has already implanted then it is too late (even if still within the 72 hour time window) as it is a preventative not an abortive.
They are available from most chemists over the counter.
The chemists are required to ask several questions before handing them over.
(unless you have a script from a doc).Here in SA a Chemist can refuse to supply it if he has a moral objection.
One of the side affects is nausea so you may feel quite unwell for about 24-48 hrs after having taken the pill. If you throw up within the first few hours it will not work.


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