House votes to extend research into premature births, study HIV organ donations

The House voted Tuesday to extend federal programs aimed at preventing pre-mature births and boosting research into pediatric diseases.

Members approved the PREEMIE Act, S. 252, in a voice vote — the Senate passed the same bill by unanimous consent in September.

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"According to the CDC, an estimated half million babies are born pre-mature every year in the United States. That's about one in eight," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

"This legislation will continue and strengthen the ongoing effort to track, prevent and treat pre-maturity."

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) added that the bill is needed because premature births are still prevalent in the United States. However, the March of Dimes reported last year that the preterm birth rate in the U.S. has fallen for five years in a row, and was 11.7 percent in 2011.

The same bill also reauthorizes the National Pediatric Research Network, which offers grants for research into pediatric diseases.

And, it extends the CHIMP Act, which is a program that funds sanctuaries for retired research chimpanzees. The bill would require a study on how the National Institutes of Health care for these animals.

Immediately after, the House debated and passed S. 330, the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act. This bill would allow the government to do research on the feasibility of allowing organ donations from HIV patients.

A law passed in 1988 prevents those donations, a policy that was enacted around the height of the AIDS scare. But supporters said it's time to allow a study on these donations, as HIV patients are living longer.

"We save many lives, but lose them anyway to chronic conditions, such as kidney and liver damage often caused by the very HIV medications that have saved their lives," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

The House also approved this bill in a voice vote, and passed three other suspension bills today:

— S. 893, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which would increase annual payment increases to disabled veterans. Passed by voice vote.

— H.R. 2871, to modify the composition of the southern judicial district of Mississippi from five districts into four. Passed 401-0.

— H.R. 2922, to extend the authority of the Supreme Court Police to protect court officials away from the Supreme Court grounds. Passed 399-3.

— This story was updated at 5:48 p.m. to reflect the second vote, and again at 7:07 p.m.