September 19, 2019
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LePage push to treat drug, alcohol use during pregnancy as child abuse suffers setback

Jake Bleiberg | BDN file
Jake Bleiberg | BDN file
Gov. Paul LePage

AUGUSTA, Maine — A legislative committee dealt a blow to Gov. Paul LePage’s bill that would designate drug or alcohol use by pregnant woman as child abuse.

In an 8-5 vote this week, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee recommended against passage of LD 1556, which seeks to expand who is mandated to report child abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services, a legislative clerk said Thursday.

The bill would also require all mandated reporters to tell state health officials when “they know or suspect substance abuse by a woman during her pregnancy.”

The mandated reporting would apply even if the drugs were prescribed as part of a recovery program. Advocates and addiction treatment professionals said the change would scare away mothers-to-be, potentially causing them to avoid both prenatal and substance abuse care.

The bill is intended to get pregnant woman into recovery programs, the governor said, but it also means prenatal drug or alcohol exposure could be grounds for terminating parental rights.

The bill was referred to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which held a May 8 hearing where members of the Maine Medical Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, the Maine Hospital Association and others spoke against the measure.

The proposal now moves to the House and Senate for floor votes.

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