JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri soon could join numerous states allowing desperate parents to legally abandon their newborn babies at hospitals or with other authorities.
The House gave final approval Friday to the abandoned baby bill, sending it to Gov. Bob Holden on a 121-0 vote. The Senate had passed the bill earlier.
The legislation applies to cases where babies less than 30 days old are left with hospital or health care workers, law officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians. The prosecution-free pass would not apply if the baby had been abused.
"If we save just one baby, we'll see this is certainly worth the effort," said Rep. Joan Barry, D-St. Louis, who sponsored the bill.
36 states have laws
The Missouri bill is modeled after a 1999 Texas law that was the nation's first statute providing amnesty to parents who abandon infants.
A total of 36 states have similar laws, said Douglas Abrams, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a member of the Missouri Bar Commission on Children and Law.
A provision for state public service announcements on the issue was removed from the final version of the bill because of concerns about adding costs to the state's tight budget. But Barry said the Missouri Bar and several child advocacy groups have agreed to help publicize the bill if Holden signs it into law.
Some lawmakers stressed that they were not encouraging or supporting parents to abandon babies. Rather, they viewed the bill as a positive option for people feeling trapped in a bad situation.
"I think we're going to give moms a very good alternative when they are about to make absolutely the very worst choice they can make between harming their baby, abandoning their baby to die or taking it for medical care," said House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.