New bill would make some co-sleeping cases a crime

CREATED Sep. 30, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep. 30, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - For the eleventh time this year, a child has died in Milwaukee from co-sleeping. The infant was found in bed with her mom at 15th and Center. Family members say the mom was drunk.

New legislation making its way through Madison would make certain kinds of co-sleeping a crime.

"Something has to change because we can't just let more innocent children die," says State Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall).

The mother was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time. They're circumstances Kerkman wants to be a crime.

"There are accidents that happen. I don't want to impede somebody's bedroom, but there are circumstances I think this case really highlights."

Kerkman introduced her co-sleeping bill just four days before this latest death, the eleventh this year in the area. The bill would make it a felony to harm or kill a child by co-sleeping while intoxicated.

"It's kind of like getting behind the wheel of a car. You have a choice to do it."

But not everyone wants this legislation to become law. The Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin thinks it doesn't go far enough, wanting all co-sleeping to be banned.

"By picking out one risk factor like intoxication is providing a false sense of security among parents," says Karen Ordinans of the Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin.

Kerkman tried introducing a stricter bill before, but it got nowhere. Now, she's hoping this bill and this latest case will inspire bipartisan support to stand up for kids who don't have a say in their own safety.

"I hope that district attorneys around the state don't have to use this statute, really," Kerkman says. "
"Because that means babies are not dying in intoxicated co-sleeping-related deaths."

Kerkman is still looking for co-sponsors of the bill. She hopes to get them soon and take the debate to the floor by the fall.