Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants law to curb drug-related birth defects

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on local lawmakers to tackle a rise in the number of children born with birth defects, because their mothers have used illegal narcotics.

As co-chair of the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, Zoeller spoke to the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS. A spokesperson for Zoeller told Fox59 that the task force is working on “viable solutions to address the spike in NAS cases in Indiana and plans to put forth a series of recommendations in the next few months for the Legislature to consider.”

“From talking to hospitals and a lot of prenatal providers from around the state, they have all reported that they’ve seen a big increase in the numbers just in the past few years,” said Larry Humbert, the Executive Director for the Indiana Perinatal Network.

The IPN is pushing for universal verbal screenings, where health care providers weed out healthy women from those who are having problems with illegal narcotics and begin treatment for them.

“It is absolutely essential that it be done on all women,” said Humbert. “If women feel like they’re being singled out or being treated differently, it could really scare women away from pre-natal care.”

“The verbal screening is certainly very, very desirable and a way to move forward without being punitive,” added State Senator Pat Miller.

Miller is working on legislation that would be introduced in the upcoming 2014 session, but said nothing has been written yet.

Some women fear Zoeller’s push means mandatory drug testing and punishment for women who fail a drug screening. A national petition has already gotten nearly 4,000 signatures from people demanding Zoeller apologize to all women.

However, Zoeller’s spokesperson said he is not in favor of mandatory universal drug screenings for all pregnant women.