Messages from physicians differ
Mom's guilt will live on
Tribe finds moms, informs about fetal alcohol dangers
Study aims to pinpoint rate of FAS disability
Education seen as key
to curtail pregnancies
Young mothers-to-be get lesson on alcohol damage
Treatment programs' funding will run out
Many want alcohol tax to fund anti-drink blitz
Tucson obstetrician Dr. Walter Brewer warns pregnant women of the dangers of drinking.
The message is simple: If you are pregnant, don't drink.
Experts across the nation believe a massive public campaign must be launched to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.
"We've got to make all Americans aware of the serious implications to their children," said U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the board of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Washington, D.C.
McCain believes tax dollars raised through alcohol sales could pay for a media campaign, such as a current campaign on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.
"Maybe we need to look at raising taxes on alcohol," McCain said. "I think there would be a fight (from the liquor lobby), but maybe we could spend some of that money on prevention."
Last year in Arizona, more than $45 million in state revenue was collected through alcohol taxes.
Of that, $18.2 million went to the Department of Corrections, $3.1 million went to drug treatment and education, and most of the remainder, about $23 million, went into the general fund.
McCain questioned whether a portion from the general fund should be used for a campaign against drinking during pregnancy.
William Chambless, director of development for the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, said "We have to do with maternal drinking what is being done with smoking."
"We need a major media blitz," he said. "We need everyone in this country to be aware of what happens to these babies.
"No amount of alcohol in a pregnancy can have any positive benefit. It crosses right through the placenta and right into the brain."
Pima County Juvenile Court Judge Nanette Warner said campaigns against drinking and driving have been hugely successful, and similar ones could be used to prevent fetal alcohol damage.
"We used to see a lot of kids drinking and driving, and we see very few now," she said.
"I don't know why we don't have big posters in bathrooms in the bars and everywhere."
Gail Harris, who has worked with children damaged by alcohol since the 1970s, said not drinking in pregnancy must become a cultural norm for rates to decrease.
"It has to become totally unacceptable for women to drink when they are pregnant," she said.
She said it is important for women to get the message from the media, doctors and friends.
Everyone must make it their responsibility to encourage friends to not drink when pregnant, she said.
Harris knows that is difficult.
"We feel it's not our place to say something," she said. "People in the U.S. are very protective of their ability and their right to raise their children the way they want to. We stand by helpless and hopeless, afraid of interfering."
Said Dr. Anna Binkiewicz , a pediatrician at University Medical Center, "We ought to have more responsibility for each others' children. There's a village to raise, and we're not taking the responsibility.
"We are so adamant about protecting individual rights, we're willing to close our eyes to horrible, horrible things that shouldn't be happening, like fetal alcohol syndrome."
Prosecuting pregnant women who drink will not work, many say.
"They don't need prosecution," said parent advocate Theresa Kellerman. "They need help. They need effective treatment programs with follow up. They need the support to stay sober. (See Part 1)."
Kris Kaemingk, a neuropsychologist at the University of Arizona who studies children with FAS, agrees.
"Making it illegal to drink when you're pregnant would not be particularly effective. If you wanted to get help, you'd be afraid to come forward. There need to be better treatment options."
In addition to treatment, women who give birth to alcohol-damaged children need advocacy - someone to hook them up with services that will help them take responsibility for themselves, said Ann Streissguth, who has studied people with FAS and FAE for 25 years at the University of Washington.
"For $3,800 a year, we could provide advocacy for a woman," Streissguth said. "You would see fewer pregnancies and fewer FAS babies. We must start looking at where our dollars are going, and one way you can save tons of money is by reducing the numbers of alcohol-effected children."
Pam Phipps, research manager at the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit, said enough FAS studies have been done.
"It's been a problem for a long time. We know what causes the problem, and now we need help for our kids," she said. "We need money to help these children and adults."