Advocates want to extend age of babies allowed to be surrendered under Baby Moses law

Law allows surrendering babies 2 months and younger, nonprofit wants 1 year

SAN ANTONIO – The Baby Moses law allows parents to anonymously surrender their baby two months old or younger to a "Safe Zone." Now, a local agency wants to strengthen the law by extending the age of babies allowed to be surrendered.

In 1999, Texas became the first state to create a safe haven law. In Texas, it's called the Baby Moses law. The zones where people can surrender their baby include fire stations, police stations and hospitals, which are all marked by yellow signs.

A local family fully supports the change for a very special reason.

Eight-year-old Bella Cobb's life is filled with joy, opportunity and love.

"I have great parents and I have great grandparents. I have great cousins and I have great aunts and uncles. I love them a lot," she said.

"She's my best friend. We do everything together," said Jason Cobb, Bella's father.

But Bella's life could have been very different had her birth mother not taken advantage of the Baby Moses law after giving her newborn to a firefighter eight years ago.

She followed the law, which states a parent must hand the baby to an employee. Leaving a baby at a doorstep is illegal abandonment.

"It was June of 2011 and we met her at 2 days old," said Laurie Cobb, Bella's mother.

"These parents who are so overwhelmed that they'll have an opportunity for a future, as well," said Pamela Allen, executive director of nonprofit Eagles Flight, which provides burials for abandoned babies and advocates for policies such as the Baby Moses law.

"Bexar County has one of the highest rates of child abuse in Texas, in the nation. How are we having the same issue again and again and again and not trying to change something?" Allen said.

She's talked with agency leaders in Missouri and North Dakota, two states that now allow parents to surrender babies up to 1 year old.

Allen wants the same law for Texas.

"The average age of the child I bury is between 4 to 6 months. We're looking at the fact that 2 months is not enough time. Two months is just enough for a woman to get through postpartum," she said.

Allen is already speaking to state legislators about proposing the age extension by next legislative session.

"We're for that. We see the good that can come of it," Laurie Cobb said.

So does Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.

In a statement Gonzales said: "Bexar County has one of the highest confirmed child abuse rates in Texas. That's why it's so important to expand Texas' "Baby Moses" law. These kids deserve the same shot at a better life that we all want for our own kids. Allowing parents who are unable to care for their child an extended time frame with which to leave their infant with an employee in a safe place may reduce the likelihood that child would remain in an abusive or neglectful home. We are open to new ways to reduce harm inflicted on our children."

While Allen works to extend the Baby Moses law, she is focused on outreach. She said many people don't know the law exists, so she has a team working on a public service announcement campaign that will spread awareness about parents' rights.

About the Authors: