In Washington, D.C., Senators are moving forward on legislation that would expand medical screening for newborn infants. The federal effort to reauthorize the “Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act” comes as the State Senate recently passed a bill requiring birthing facilities to screen newborns for heart defects. Our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Geoff Bennett was at a hearing on the issue and has the story.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Democratic Senator Kay Hagan says the issue of newborn screening is one she takes personally.
“This morning I sit not just as chairman of this subcommittee, but as ‘chairmom.’ Because as a mother of three, I personally know that when you have a child, your first hope and prayer is that your child is healthy,” said North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan.
Hagan is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2008. Before that law was passed, the quality of newborn screening varied from state to state.
The new legislation renews uniform testing and authorizes grants to help states improve their screening programs.
Before Thursday's hearing, Hagan and a mother whose son’s life was saved by newborn screening, explained why they support the bill.
Hagan said, “The CDC has said over the last ten years, this has been one of the top ten most important public health screenings that has really made a difference in so many children’s lives.”
“It was because of that test, that early screening that he got the care that he needed right away. And he’s here today because of it. It saved his life,” said Joye Mullis.
Mullis reiterated that point in her testimony. She said a nurse first discovered that her son, Ethan, had a heart problem.
"Despite his rocky start, we now have a boy on our hands who loves bugs, cars and playing with his preschool friends," Mullis said.
Even though Senator Hagan says the bill is “common sense” and meant to improve the health of newborns, the political climate in Washington could still be an obstacle in getting the bill passed.
Hagan said, "But I do think, hopefully, when we are talking about saving lives, a little, tiny test that’s done for a newborn, I cannot imagine anybody not wanting to support this kind of legislation."