State advocacy

The March of Dimes volunteers and staff work to influence both legislative and regulatory activities in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico - serving as powerful voices for the needs of pregnant women, infants, children and families.  Our efforts span the full range of our annual Advocacy & Government Affairs priorities, including access to care, research and surveillance, prevention and education, and issues important to tax-exempt organizations.

In 2016, the March of Dimes has been working in states to promote solutions that reduce the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and improve the health of both mother and infant when drug use occurs during pregnancy.

The use or abuse of either illegal or prescription drugs during pregnancy can have serious health consequences for both a mother and an infant. Drug abuse during pregnancy can lead to low birthweight, prematurity, birth defects, and infant mortality.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) refers to cases in which newborns experience drug withdrawal shortly after birth due to drug exposure in utero. In the case of opioids, NAS can result from the use of prescription drugs as legitimately prescribed, from the abuse of prescription drugs, or from the use of illegal opioids like heroin.

Pregnant women who are addicted to opioids or other drugs often do not seek prenatal care until late in pregnancy because they are worried that they will be stigmatized or that their newborn will be taken away.  The March of Dimes supports policy interventions that enable women to access services in order to promote a healthy pregnancy and build a healthy family.

In 2016, the March of Dimes has successfully led efforts to address neonatal abstinence syndrome or drug use during pregnancy in at least 5 states.  Some of these initiatives involved passage of proactive legislation, while others involved the defeat of bills that could drive pregnant women away from care. 

  • Alabama enacted legislation exempting women who legally take opioids during pregnancy from child abuse laws related to substance abuse during pregnancy. 
  • Massachusetts established an interagency task force on NAS, and secured $100,000 in funding for a statewide program to improve care for newborns with NAS and provide for data collection and surveillance of NAS. 
  • Tennessee defeated legislation that would have extended the law punishing women who give birth to babies with NAS; as a result, the law will expire at the end of 2016.
  • Alabama, Delaware and Louisiana also defeated legislation that would have created or increased the severity of criminal laws addressing substance abuse during pregnancy.

The March of Dimes has also advocated successfully to improve maternal and child health on issues like prematurity prevention, tobacco cessation, access to care, and much more.

Below are just a few examples of fact sheets and issue briefs used in successful state advocacy efforts.

 

See also: March of Dimes Foundation Data Book for Policy Makers and Peristats.