Safe babies mark legacy of ‘Baby Mary’
Ten years ago, the death of an infant girl prompted a Pennsylvania law designed to save unwanted babies.
In the decade since the passage of the Newborn Protection Act, 21 infants across the state have been safely left behind in hospitals with no questions asked.
Six of those infants were left at hospitals in Washington and Greene counties.
The baby whose death led to the new law was known as Baby Mary. Discovered in a municipal trash compactor in Sunbury just days after her birth, it was later learned she had been delivered in a bathtub. Her mother, Tracy Dupre, is serving a life sentence for drowning the newborn. Dupre’s boyfriend, Scott Kinney, was charged with throwing the dead infant into the trash. He was sentenced to five years of probation.
Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley, who was contacted about the infant’s death, pushed for Pennsylvania to have an infant abandonment law similar to ones in other states.
Under the law, any newborn up to 28 days old may be abandoned at a hospital within the state. No questions will be asked of the person who is surrendering the child, provided the baby shows no signs of abuse or harm.
The parent may provide medical information if he or she wishes, but it is not necessary.
Washington Hospital has had five infants dropped off at its facility since the law was enacted.
There was a set of twins in 2006, a baby in 2007 and two more last year, said hospital spokeswoman Jamie Ivanac.
“Once we examine the baby and make sure it’s in good health, we turn them over to Children and Youth Services,” Ivanac explained.
In Waynesburg, Southwest Regional Medical Center had an infant brought to the hospital about two years ago. Joy Eggleston, senior public affairs officer, called it “an amazing day.”
As required, the infant was seen by a physician and then turned over to the county CYS, which arranged for the baby’s adoption.
“Just knowing you may have played a part in keeping that child safe was really rewarding to many in our emergency department,” Eggleston said.
Mary Kaufman, communications specialist for Monongahela Valley Hospital, could not confirm any infants have been left there. She said the hospital posts information about the Safe Haven program, and the staff is trained to know what to do should a baby be brought in. Babies may be brought to the emergency department or handed over to the guard at the front of the hospital at any time.
Some hospitals even provide bassinets where the babies can be left anonymously.
Although Kelley did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment, news stories indicate he has visited Baby Mary’s grave and left stuffed animals there in the years since her death.
More information about Safe Haven of Pennsylvania is available at www.secretsafe.org.
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