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NEBRASKA TO CHANGE SAFE-HAVEN AGE LIMIT

Legislators agree the law should cover only newborns.

Stung by the abandonments of children as old as 17 under Nebraska's new safe-haven law, the governor and lawmakers agreed Monday to narrow the law's broad wording to protect only the parents of newborns from prosecution.

Forty of the Legislature's 49 senators would amend the law so it applies only to infants up to 3 days old, legislative Speaker Mike Flood said.

The age cap would change the Nebraska law from the most lenient to one of the nation's most restrictive.

At least 18 children, the youngest 22 months and many of them teens, have been abandoned since the law took effect in July.

Nebraska's law doesn't define the word "child," so it has been interpreted to let anyone leave a child up to age 18 at a state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution for the abandonment.

Most states let parents and guardians drop off children who are up to a month old at hospitals or other safe institutions. Sixteen states have a 3-day-old age cap.

Every state has a safe-haven law, which is meant to save the lives of unwanted infants.

The Nebraska law has had "serious, unintended consequences," Gov. Dave Heineman said. "This law needs to be changed to focus on infants."

The governor reiterated that he would prefer not to call a special session before the Legislature's regular session in January, but he indicated he could change his mind.

"If circumstances dictate, particularly if we have several more from out of state, I won't hesitate to make that call" for a special session, Heineman said.

The rash of drop-offs included a teenage girl from Iowa and a Michigan boy whose mother drove to Omaha to leave him at a hospital there.

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