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Lifesaving Birth Defects Bill Becomes Law

Emerson Rose Bill named after Emerson Rose Smith of Clemson.

Gov. Nikki Haley signs the bill into law.
Gov. Nikki Haley signs the bill into law.

Bill, named after Clemson child born with congential heart defect, requires birthing facilities to give every newborn child a pulse oximetry test.

A bill designed to help facilities detect problems with the lungs and hearts of newborns that ultrasounds may miss has been signed into law.

Governor Nikki Haley joined with Senator Alexander, representatives from the American Heart Association, and Emerson Rose’s parents, Jason and Susan Smith of Clemson, Wednesday in a ceremonial bill signing for S.341, the Emerson Rose bill. S.341 requires birthing facilities in South Carolina to perform a pulse oximetry test on every newborn child between 24 and 48 hours of life.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, was a co-sponsor of the bill.

He said the inexpensive test uses cord blood to make sure the newborn's lungs and heart are healthy. 

“It's a simple test, and from that simple test, it can detect a heart defect you would otherwise not know about in an infant,” Martin said. “Upon birth, they would do just a minor blood test with the cord blood. Very easy to do, but it can really save an infant's life, if they know that the defect exists. Otherwise you don't know until the baby dies. That's just one of the things that came out of the unfortunate, unexpected death of an otherwise healthy baby.”

Emerson Rose Smith was born with a congenital heart defect and passed away only 76 days after she was born.

Susan and Jason Smith vowed raise awareness and money to fight congenital heart defects and established the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation, in memory of their daughter.

“They're a wonderful couple,” Martin said. “They had researched this. Some other states had done it, and they wanted to do this in memory of their child who died. I thought it was a wonderful idea.”

“While I am blessed to be a governor, I am also blessed to be a mom and this bill pulls on my heart,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “Due to Jason and Susan Smith’s dedication to making a difference and the action we are taking today, Emerson Rose’s name is going to live on and positively influence the health of babies across the state.”

Performing a pulse oximetry test can give caregivers insight into the lungs and heart of newborns and head-off complications not detected by ultrasound.

The Emerson Rose bill continues Gov. Haley’s commitment to keeping South Carolina’s babies healthy – from improved access to care for expecting mothers, to reducing elective pre-term deliveries, to ensuring that expecting mothers with drug or alcohol problems get the treatment they need.

The bill unanimously passed the House and Senate.


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