Halle Burke

Halle Burke and her father, John, during testimony Feb. 26 at the House Health and Insurance Committee. Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder, the bill's sponsor, is seated at the right. 

Halle Burke of Broomfield is a soft-spoken 16-year-old who loves to bake cupcakes for her friends. 

She also holds the distinction of being one of the first babies saved through Colorado's safe haven law.

Burke told her story to the House Health & Insurance Committee on Tuesday, urging it to pass Senate Bill 25, which would add age-appropriate safe haven information to the state's health education curriculum in public schools. 

The state's safe haven law has been in place for nearly two decades, but supporters of this year's measure say teens aren't getting the message.

Under the safe haven law, a parent can relinquish custody of a newborn of up to 72 hours old to an employee of a fire station or hospital without legal consequences. 

Burke said she was dropped off at a fire station when she was two days old.

"This law is significant to me," she told the committee. "I don't know where I would be without it."

When the law was passed in 2000, there were plenty of news reports about it. But nowadays, there are many stories about women discarding their children, she said. "The babies don't survive and the mother goes to jail."

Most of her classmates don't know the law exists, and that's unacceptable, she added.

"My duty as a rescued child is to make sure this never happens again."

Linda Prudhomme, executive director of Colorado Safe Haven, knows first hand that teen mothers aren't getting the message. She told the committee about a teen mother in Green Valley Ranch who gave birth in November 2017 under a blanket in her backyard.

The teen stuffed a rock down her baby's throat to keep anyone from hearing its cries, she said.

Just two months later, a 23-year-old Douglas County woman was charged with first-degree murder after throwing her newborn over the fence into another person's backyard. 

"We are trying to save the mother as well as the child," Prudhomme told the committee. "Someone who is no risk to society will spend the rest of her life in jail."

The bill drew opposition from Richard Uhrlaub, an adult adoptee who said the proposed law "promotes shame" and that the state would be better served by promoting healthier options, such as encouraging young women to take advantage of birth homes, such as those provided by Florence Crittenton Services.

The committee's Republicans were initially concerned about the bill, which included, in its summary, that the information would become part of the state's comprehensive sex education curriculum. That summary, however, is from the bill's introduced version. Per an amendment in the Senate, the information would be added to the health curriculum unless it is provided elsewhere.

The safe haven information is already a part of House Bill 1032, which modifies the state's comprehensive sex ed standards for public school instruction.

Once assured that the bill dealt only with the health curriculum, committee Republicans enthusiastically supported the measure, and it won passage on an 11-0 vote.

The bill now goes to the full House for debate and a likely final vote.

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