CA Governor Signs Bill Requiring CCHD Testing for Infants

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed and vetoed dozens of bills in the past few weeks, some of which have garnered national media attention due to controversial content. Assembly Bill 1731, authored by assembly member Marty Block and sponsored by the California Chapter of the March of Dimes, is relatively uncontroversial and was signed into law on September 17, 2012.

The bill goes into effect July 1, 2013 and requires that new born infants be tested for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD), unless parents or guardians object to giving their child the test. The language of the bill explains that pulse oximetry, the required method of testing infants for CCHD, is a “noninvasive test that estimates the percentage of hemoglobin in blood that is saturated with oxygen.”

“Congenital heart disease affects about seven to nine of every 1,000 live births in the United States and is the most common cause of death in the first year of life, with defects accounting for 3 percent of all infant deaths and more than 40 percent of all deaths due to congenital malformations.  …Many newborn lives could potentially be saved by earlier detection and treatment of CCHD if hospitals were required to perform this simple, noninvasive newborn screening method.”

There was little opposition to the bill, and a flood of support from individuals who have experienced the effects of CCHD and the non-profit organization March of Dimes. The March of Dimes played a major role in facilitating the success of the bill by providing the public with information about the threat of CCHD and the benefits of AB 1731. The organization also fostered support for the bill by rallying members of the California community behind the importance of ensuring infants’ health.

Prior to Gov. Brown’s signing of the bill, March of Dimes Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee Chair Gail Margolis said, “March of Dimes is honored to sponsor AB 1731 and has a long history of working hand in hand with the California Legislature to ensure babies born in our state have the best chance for a healthy start in life….The simple test required by AB 1731 is cost effective and will save lives.”

Despite the unremarkable media coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown signing AB 1731 into law, it is an important matter. The legislative process AB 1731 underwent exemplifies how a variety of organizations and individuals can work together in order to increase the standard of living on a statewide level.