Maine Bill’s Proposed Fetal Exposure Guidlines Generate Controversy

February 27th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »

The bills’ sponsor is Rep. Richard Malaby of Hancock, who recounted a story about a woman he met on the campaign trail who he says raised his awareness of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – or NAS. 

“An elderly woman came up to me and said, ‘Do you know what I do?’  And I said, ‘No ma’am.’  And she said, ‘I’m a hugger. I go to Eastern Maine Medical Center and hold these NAS babies a couple days a week.  And furthermore, when I do that, the parents come in, and the parents often-times are addicted.’  And she noted, so too, frequently, are the grandparents.  And I thought, ‘Good for her.  Bad for us,'” Malaby recalled.

In 2005, The number of drug-affected Maine babies was under 200.  By the beginning of 2012, it was nearly 700.  It’s unclear whether the number reflects an actual increase or just better identification, but Malaby would like to see it lowered.

His bill aims to do that by requiring health care providers to report babies from birth to 12 months of age who exhibit signs of potential fetal exposure to alcohol to the Department of Health and Human Services.  The idea is that addicted parents can then access services.

But the requirement to report “potential exposure” has raised concerns.  Democratic Rep. Ann Dorney, a family physician who practices in Skowhegan, asked whether the law would apply to mothers who, say, smoked marijuana before they realized they were pregnant, but then stopped.

“It’s the same issue that happens frequently –

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