Home Virginia Politics Del. Hope Baffled at McDonnell Veto of Unanimously Passed Newborn Screening Bill

Del. Hope Baffled at McDonnell Veto of Unanimously Passed Newborn Screening Bill


The following press release is from Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), about Bob McDonnell’s baffling veto of “a bill that passed the 2012 General Assembly session unanimously” that “would create a statewide process to implement newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).” Why would McDonnell veto this? Del. Hope doesn’t get it, and neither do I.

Delegate Hope “Extremely Saddened” Over McDonnell Veto of Newborn Screening Bill

Arlington – Governor Robert F. McDonnell vetoed HB 399, a bill that passed the 2012 General Assembly session unanimously.  HB 399 would create a statewide process to implement newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).   CCHD is the most common birth defect known but is often missed in routine newborn examinations.  If left undiagnosed, CCHD can lead to long-term consequences and even death.  Every year, 1,200 children are born in Virginia with CCHD; however, a simple, non-invasive screening is now available to detect CCHD. HB 399 would lead to the requirement that every newborn undergo this potentially life-saving screening.

In his veto explanation, Governor McDonnell pointed to his “efforts to reform state government to reduce the number of boards, commissions and work groups that continue in perpetuity through legislative enactments.”  He also stated “the Virginia Department of Health has an existing work group planning the implementation of appropriate early intervention services to infants identified as having critical congenital cyanotic heart disease.”

Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) said, “I am extremely saddened that Governor McDonnell vetoed legislation seeking to detect and diagnose CCHD in newborns.  Contrary to his explanation, the Virginia Department of Health does not already have an existing workgroup on CCHD of which I’ve ever been made aware.  The Department, with my encouragement, applied for a federal HRSA grant seeking funding to fully implement a CCHD program; however, the Governor’s veto seriously jeopardizes that application and the likelihood Virginia will be able to implement this program.”

Delegate Hope continued, “Governor McDonnell seems to want it both ways. Saying on the one hand he vetoed the bill because he wants to reduce the number of work groups in government and then in the next breath extol the fact that a CCHD work group already exists.” Hope concluded, “I hope members of the General Assembly will see that a Section 1 bill does not create a work group ‘in perpetuity’ and they will stand with Virginia families to override the Governor’s veto.”

  • jack hughes

    Unfortunately, this veto provides yet more evidence that conservative GOPers are all about the state bringing all fetuses to birth, but once out of the womb, the kids (and parents) are all on their own without a scintilla of help from the state.  

  • glennbear

    I wonder if McD has managed to avoid the stories every year of the deaths of HS and college age athletes from undiagnosed congenital heart defects. These defects were never detected in their youth and only become known during autopsies. Is this the same McD who recently signed legislation mandating ultrasounds of pregnant women seeking abortions ? Just another example of the GOP “protecting” the unborn but once you are born every individual is strictly on their own.

  • April 10, 2012

    Children’s National Disappointed in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Veto of Newborn Heart Disease Screening Legislation

    Medical Center Joins Virginia Chapters of American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics in Expressing Disappointment

    Washington, DC – Today Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed legislation that would have taken the first step toward saving the lives of newborn Virginia babies who die each year from heart disease.

    The legislation, HB 399, would have fast-tracked implementation of screening in all Virginia hospitals to ensure that every child would have access to a simple, yet vital, screening test for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).

    “While we commend the Governor for acknowledging CCHD screening is an issue that deserves attention, we respectfully disagree that convening a no cost, public-private stakeholders group to ensure that all hospitals in Virginia- both urban and rural- have the necessary tools to implement a newborn screening program is unnecessary,” said Jacqueline Bowens, Executive Vice President & Chief Government Affairs Officer at Children’s National. “It is the role and responsibility of state government to establish uniform standards for statewide newborn screening. As such, to replace the pathway established in HB 399, we urge Governor McDonnell to formally direct the Department of Health to convene experts and stakeholders to establish a plan for implementation of statewide CCHD screening this year.”

    “Screening for critical types of congenital heart disease using pulse oximetry is simple, non-invasive, inexpensive, and helps to identify newborns with congenital heart disease early so they can get early care,” said Gerard Martin, MD, Senior Vice President, the Center for Heart, Lung and Kidney Disease at Children’s National. “Doctors and nurses can perform this simple test just after birth to help detect a life-threatening condition when we do other routine tests. We are deeply troubled by the Governor’s veto of a bill that could bring such dramatic benefit to newborns.”

    “If serious forms of congenital heart disease are missed, lifelong health problems or death may result. Some hospitals in Virginia, but not all, are already screening newborns for CCHD and this bill would have guaranteed smart, affordable, cost effective care to all children in Virginia, regardless of where they live” said Martin.

    Potentially Far-Reaching Implications

    Gov. McDonnell’s veto of this legislation could also hurt Virginia’s chances of receiving $1 million in badly needed federal funding to help address this public health issue, said one of the bill’s supporters, Cathleen Smith Grzesiek, senior director of government relations for the American Heart Association.  

    “This legislation would have shown the federal government that Virginia is serious about saving the lives of newborns with heart disease, increasing our chances to get financial support to make progress on this issue and make a difference for more Virginia families,” said Grzesiek.

    More about Critical Congenital Heart Disease

    Critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) is the most common birth defect and is often missed in routine prenatal and newborn examinations. Simple, non-invasive screening is now available to catch defects that can cause serious long term consequences if left untreated.

    House Bill 399 would have established a process for statewide implementation of newborn screening for CCHD. This type of screening is endorsed by The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human and Human Services.

    “It is critical that all newborns in Virginia are screened for congenital heart disease.  Without mandatory screening, babies will die,” said Jodi Lemacks, national program director of Mended Little Hearts, American Heart Association volunteer, and a mother of a child born with a congenital heart defect. “There is no doubt that screening for the disease using pulse oximetry saves babies’ lives. In New Jersey, just one day after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill mandating screening into law, a baby boy’s life was saved.”

    HB 399 received unanimous approval from the House of Delegates and the Senate during the 2012 legislative session and enjoys support from health care providers and child advocacy organizations from across the Commonwealth. The Virginia Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have already expressed disappointment in Gov. McDonnell’s veto of HB 399.

    Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, has been serving the nation’s children since 1870. Home to Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is consistently ranked among the top pediatric hospitals by U.S.News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group. Children’s National is a Magnet-designated hospital. With 303 beds and eight regional outpatient centers, Children’s National is the only exclusive provider of acute pediatric services in the Washington metropolitan area. For more information, visit ChildrensNational.org, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    What a ridiculous excuse for vetoing something totally non-political and important to parents and infants.

    McDoofus’ excuse, “The Virginia Department of Health has an existing work group planning the implementation of appropriate early intervention services to infants identified as having critical congenital cyanotic heart disease.” In order to have early intervention for those infants, they have to be identified first. Duh.

    Oh, well, I guess the guy who says he didn’t realize that forcing women to undergo “transvaginal ultra sound” meant state rape by object (oh, well, he did get a law degree from Pat Robertson) certainly can’t see the obvious: first, identify those with the problem (the object of HB 399), then have early intervention services.  

  • I’m really angry at this decision, and not only because it shows the blatant political nature of the ultrasound decision.  (Although that it does!)  But it has been shown over and over and over that good prenatal and early post-natal screening is a huge benefit for all of society, both from a public health perspective and from an economic one.  This was just stupid on so many levels.