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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 21,1998

President Clinton Signs S. 419

The Birth Defects Prevention Act of 1998

                          The Oval Office
                           April 21, 1998

The President today will sign S. 419, The Birth Defects Prevention Act of 1998. This legislation provides authorization for surveillance, research, and services aimed at the prevention of birth defects. Presently, there is no reliable regional or nationwide system for collecting information on babies born with birth defects, and the majority of states have no surveillance or monitoring systems capable of tracking the occurrence of such events. This lack of data and information greatly impedes the development of prevention programs. This bill also provides authorization for the expansion and improvement of existing state birth defects registries, and for technical assistance for new registries in states that wish to create them. S. 419 passed the Senate by voice vote on June 6, 1997 and passed the House by a vote of 405-2 on March 10, 1998.

Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is the lead Senate sponsor and Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) is the lead House sponsor of this legislation. Other members of Congress attending this event include: Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) (Sponsor); Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN); Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) (Sponsor), Representative Henry Bonilla (R-TX).

The March of Dimes, which played a leading role in supporting this legislation and is celebrating its 60th Anniversary, will be represented by their Dr. Jennifer Howse, President; Dr. Marina Weiss, Vice President; and by their National Ambassador, T.J. Stallbaumer of Rogers, Arkansas. T.J., who will be attending with his family, was born 4 months early and weighed 1.4 pounds. After intensive care and breathing therapy, T.J. is a healthy and active 5 year old. As National Ambassador, T.J. will be traveling across the country this year promoting the mission of the March of Dimes: preventing birth defects.

Additional participants include Ann Langley, National Association of Children's Hospitals; Kathy McGinley, The Arc; Mohammad N. Akhter, American Public Health Association; Kerilyn Frich, American Academy of Pediatrics; and Roberta Carlin, Spina Bifida Association of America.