The full Senate has given final approval to a measure requiring all prenatal classes to provide educational materials to expectant mothers about the dangers of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. Charlie Laster is the Senate author of House Bill 2705, authored by Rep. Kris Steele in the House of Representatives.
“Alcohol use by pregnant women is the number one preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects in our country,” said Laster, D-Shawnee. “In Oklahoma, 250 babies are born every year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and another 1,000 have Fetal Alcohol Effects. We need to do a better job of warning women that no level of alcohol or drugs is safe for their unborn babies. That’s what this legislation will do.”
Laster said the lifetime institutional and medical costs for one person with FAS are at least $2 million. The lifetime cost of care for the 1,250 babies born each year in Oklahoma with problems as a result of the mother’s use of alcohol are estimated to be up to $2 billion.
His legislation would require all prenatal classes to teach pregnant women about the risks of drug or alcohol use during pregnancy and provide information on screening, assessment, intervention and referral for treatment of substance dependency.
“The good news is that all of these materials are already available for free by the federal government, so these prenatal programs won’t be facing any financial burden,” Laster said. “But more importantly, I believe we can prevent needless birth defects and developmental disabilities that can keep these children from leading independent and protective lives once they become adults.”
HB 2705 now goes to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.