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Well-intentioned, but not practical. That seemed to be the consensus Wednesday at a subcommittee involving Senate File 467. The bill would require hospitals provide umbilical cord testing for the presence of illegal drug or alcohol in a newborn child’s body and child in need of assistance proceedings.


Nobody spoke in support of the bill.

“I think this maybe is an over reach in this case,” said Republican Sen. Mark Segebart. “I’m not willing to sign the report.”

Democrat Sen. Herm Quirmbach agreed.

“It sounds to me to be first of all a large, unfunded mandate,” Quirmbach said. “We already have a screening program in place that looks for certain markers and those markers are identified and then followed up on. I am concerned about medical privacy and false positives. It’s not just that you had a cup of coffee that morning or a glass of wine the night before, there are simply false positives. There are simply tests that give you the wrong result. Bringing a newborn into the world ought to be a joyous occasion.”

Erika Eckley of the Iowa Hospital Association said according to data, there were 38,237 births in 2017 in Iowa. Federal law already requires birthing hospitals to have a policy in place for testing newborns when there is high risk.

She said the best stats she could find is 6-10 percent of babies are born with these substances in their blood. But testing 100 percent for the 6-10 percent would risk false positives and tragedies with families where potential action could be taken against parents. Additional costs are a concern as well.

Chaney Yeast of Blank Children’s Hospital said current guidelines are already in place and they currently test more than 300 kids each year. Reports are then submitted to DHS and it is up to DHS what happens at that point.

Yeast did offer one positive about the bill, stating umbilical cord is much more reliable than urine and hair tests, but still opposed the bill.

Nancy Augustine who is an advocate for families involved with DHS, said she’s against the bill for several reasons.

“This is a bill that is just a perfect example of government over reach,” Augustine said. “I like to compare it to a police officer stopping a driver and making them do a test for drunk driving. There’s no probable cause.”

Lisa Davis-Cook of the Iowa Association for Justice spoke about the bill. She recalled being pregnant and having an OB tell her everything was fine in moderation. Coffee, wine — no big deal.

“I saw this and got to thinking, my labors were really fast,” she said. “What if I had had a couple glasses of wine, would that have shown up the next day in my kid’s umbilical cord blood?”

Republican Sen. Tom Greene said while well-intentioned, it’s an over reach and the screening seems to be doing an adequate job.

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