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Mr. DOLD. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3187, the March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act of 2011. I'm proud to have introduced this bill and to have worked closely with my friend and colleague from New York, Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
This legislation authorizes the minting and issue in 2015 of a commemorative coin honoring the 75th anniversary of the March of Dimes and recognizes their landmark accomplishments in maternal and child health. Surcharges on the sales of these special coins will fund critical research and programs to support healthy mothers, healthy infants, and healthy families nationwide.
Mr. Speaker, it's summertime across our Nation, and back home in our districts, children are playing outside with friends or are going swimming at the pool. But more than 75 years ago, children stayed indoors during the summer. Their parents wouldn't let them go to the park or to the pool because of outbreaks of polio. Polio back then could strike any child, and no one knew what the cause was.
The March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1938 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a mission to eradicate polio. In FDR's day, polio was an epidemic disease that paralyzed or killed up to 52,000 Americans, mostly children, every year. Even the President had polio.
So during the Great Depression, citizens sent dimes--4 billion of them--to the White House to fund polio research. That effort funded the research by Doctors Salk and Sabin that produced the vaccines that have eradicated polio in the United States and in much of the world.
In the quest for a vaccine, the March of Dimes supported many other research milestones in newborn and child health. For example, in 1953, Francis Crick and March of Dimes grantee Dr. James D. Watson identified the double helix structure of DNA and, in 1962, won the Nobel Prize for mapping the human genome.
Another research breakthrough came in the 1960s when the March of Dimes supported research that developed the first screening test for PKU, a rare metabolic genetic disorder that causes intellectual disabilities. Since that time, the March of Dimes has led the effort to expand newborn screening. Now every baby born in the United States receives screening for dozens of conditions that have the potential to cause catastrophic health problems or death if not detected or treated promptly at birth.
Today the March of Dimes is leading the national effort to reduce premature birth. Every year, nearly 500,000 infants are born far too soon. In my home State of Illinois, almost 13 percent of all infants are born prematurely. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among newborns. Many of those who survive face a lifetime of serious health problems, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, and vision and hearing loss. Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman, and in nearly half of the cases, no one knows why.
The March of Dimes National Prematurity Campaign funds a robust portfolio of research and education programs designed to unveil the causes and address the risk factors of preterm birth. For example, the March of Dimes is working with hospitals to implement best practices that discourage early elective deliveries before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy. Thanks to the dedication of the March of Dimes and others, the United States has seen a decline in the prematurity rate for 4 consecutive years.
Mr. Speaker, the March of Dimes has an extraordinary history of achievement. More than 4 million infants are born every year in the United States, and the March of Dimes helps each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. The commemorative coin will help fund these vitally important activities.
H.R. 3187 has broad bipartisan support in both Chambers of the Congress, with 304 cosponsors here in the House and 68 in the United States Senate. This legislation complies with all statutory requirements for the commemorative coin program, and the coins will be produced at no cost to the American taxpayer. To claim the surcharges, the March of Dimes will raise matching funds form private sources.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have sponsored this bipartisan bill, and I would like to thank the Congresswoman from New York, Representative Lowey, for her steadfast leadership and hard work to see this day become a reality. I would also like to thank Chairman Spencer Bachus and Ranking Member Barney Frank for helping to get this bill to the floor today. I also want to thank my friend from Georgia, for him managing time on the other side today and for his leadership as well.
Mr. Speaker, for 75 years, the March of Dimes has dedicated itself to helping all infants get a healthy start in life, which is what I think is very, very important. I ask my colleagues to join me in voting for H.R. 3187, the March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mr. DOLD. Mr. Speaker, before I yield, I do want to just thank my good friend from Georgia (Mr. Scott) for his leadership and support of the March of Dimes.
He talked a little bit about the recent fundraiser that the March of Dimes held, where Members of Congress actually were cooking for this fundraiser. What he failed to mention was that I believe Mr. Scott--and Mrs. Scott, for that matter--actually won the cooking contest. So thank you again. It was one of the few places I know we went back for seconds. I really appreciate that.
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