Murkowski, Klobuchar Combat Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Prenatal Substance Abuse

Reintroduce Legislation to Advance Research, Prevention, and Services

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently reintroduced S.2879, the Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act, which would authorize programs and funding to individuals and families effected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), and related conditions. Specifically, the bill would create an Interagency Coordinating Committee to combat FASD as well as reestablish the Center of Excellence on FASD and related conditions. For the first time, the legislation will also address other prenatal substance abuse, including the use of opioids by pregnant women.

According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, an estimated 15 percent of infants are affected by prenatal alcohol or illicit drug exposure each year. Those infants—which have been exposed to prenatal substance abuse but do not receive the appropriate treatment and developmental support—are at high risk of ongoing mental, emotional, and even physical challenges. Although there has been heightened awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome disorders since the 1990s, there continues to be a shortage in Alaska and nationally of diagnostic clinics and resources for those with FASDs. This legislation aims to develop a more collaborative approach across the federal government to support the medical, substance use, child welfare, and educational issues that the mother, infant and family face after being diagnosed with FAS, FASDs, or a related condition.

“Alaska faces some of the highest rates of FASD in the nation. And while the effects—physical, mental, and behavioral—may be incurable, FASD is completely preventable. We also know that the epidemic of opioid and substance abuse has wreaked havoc in Alaska, impacting entire communities, families, and unfortunately, even pregnant mothers. It is a heartbreaking and unfortunate reality, but it is important to know that this legislation approaches the issue of prenatal substance abuse with a broader scope than in years past,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alongside Senator Klobuchar, I am proud to continue building on my years-long effort to bolster research, raise awareness, and increase resources to help protect future generations of Alaskans.”

“As the top prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county, I saw firsthand the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other substances and the devastation it caused families and communities. That’s why Senator Murkowski and I are working together to pass bipartisan legislation to support people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and their families while working to help prevent FASD in the first place,” said Senator Klobuchar.

"This strategic plan would benefit the many individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the families who care for them. The set of neurodevelopmental disabilities known as FASD, which often have lifelong consequences, are surprisingly common. Yet FASD often goes unrecognized and under-served. Families raising those with FASD deserve informed, accessible support and care,” said Heather Carmichael Olson, Ph.D., Clinical Professor at the Seattle Children's Research Institute and University of Washington School of Medicine

“The FASD community thanks Senators Murkowski and Klobuchar for leading the charge to enact this bipartisan FASD legislation to bring much needed focus and resources to a huge societal problem.  Over two decades ago, while Minnesota’s First Lady and a Juvenile Court Judicial Officer, I became convinced that the numbers of children born with FASD was a crisis affecting each and every one of us that, we as a nation, had failed to make a priority.  S. 2879 confronts this crisis,” said Susan Shepard Carlson, National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) Legislative and Policy Chair. “Existing FASD prevention efforts and services are too fragmented among federal, state, and local approaches.  This new legislation provides a structure to develop well-informed public policy on FASD and creates a clear, ongoing societal commitment to advancing research and ensuring essential services for persons with FASD and their families.”

"Improving the recognition, services and supports available to individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the families who care for these individuals is a critical public health need. This condition has been historically under-recognized and underserved. This bill provides essential support needed to improve surveillance, clinical care, and research to address this public health problem. This bill will go a long way towards advancing the care of individuals with FASD to reduce the secondary disabilities and family stress often experienced by their loved ones. We are personally very excited by the broad scope of supports included in this proposal for individuals throughout the lifespan with this condition and encourage others to support this legislation,” said Claire D. Coles, Ph. D., Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine and Julie Kable, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

For a one-pager on the bill, click here.

For the full text of the bill, click here.


  • Senator Murkowski was honored by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for her leadership on the issue at the Smart Moms, Healthy Babies International Commemoration event – hosted by NOFAS to raise national and international awareness about recommendations and resources for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Senator Murkowski first introduced the Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act in the 109th Congress and has reintroduced various versions of the legislation since.