OMAHA - Nebraska's vaguely worded safe haven law has already been exposed as ripe for abuse, and lawmakers were looking at one more problem with the legislation after a 14-year-old Iowa girl was abandoned at an Omaha hospital.
The teenager left at Creighton University Medical Center on Tuesday - the 17th child abandoned in the last three weeks - came from just across the Missouri River in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Nebraska lawmakers who aren't scheduled to convene again until January are already discussing changes to the 47-word law they passed in the spring. It lets anyone leave a child of any age at a state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution for the abandonment. But the law doesn't preclude people from out of state from leaving their children in Nebraska, which has state health officials wondering about its current reach.
The Legislature's Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees plan to hold a joint public hearing on the safe-haven law on Nov. 13.
Gov. Dave Heineman has not ruled out calling a special session of the Legislature to fix the law, but he has been reluctant to do so. The law includes the word "child," which isn't defined.
"The governor remains hopeful that a special session won't be needed, but this issue must be addressed immediately at the beginning of the next session," Heineman's spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein said Wednesday.