Rep. Curtis bill to help pregnant women addicted to opioids signed into law

Congressman John Curtis’ POPPY Study Act was signed into law by the president as part of a historic package of legislation to give $6 billion in funding and research to help communities combat the opioid crisis.

Curtis’ bill will improve research to help Utah find out why the state is prescribing opioids to pregnant women at an alarmingly high rate and what alternatives might prove safer for women and their unborn children.

“I am thrilled to see my bipartisan bill to help Utah mothers be signed into law. It is a historic day that will forever mark my time in Congress,” said Curtis. Across the country, women have been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic and little is known about the effect this has had on pregnant women. Health care experts, providers, patients, and local county leaders that are fighting this head-on all told me that there is simply too much we don’t know about why pregnant women are being prescribed opioids. My bill increases research on current opioid prescribing practices during pregnancy, provides more data on prescription opioid misuse during pregnancy, and evaluates and encourages non-opiate pain management therapies that are safe and effective during pregnancy.”

The POPPY Study Act was included as an amendment to H.R. 6, a large package of bills that includes over 90 House bills and 65 different Senate bills that span 8 House committees and 6 Senate committees. H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, is a bipartisan bill that will help overall efforts to combat the opioid crisis by advancing treatment and recovery initiatives, improving prevention measures, protecting our communities, and bolstering our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.


House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden praised Curtis’ bill:

“It is important that women who take opiate pain medications are aware of the possible risks during pregnancy. While there is increasing awareness in use of non-opioid pain management overall, information about its use for pregnant patients with unique considerations for mother and child is simply lacking.”

The Opioid Epidemic Nationwide

The opioid epidemic is a national crisis, with a particularly devastating effect in Utah. Utah’s drug overdose rate is consistently ranked among the highest in the nation. 6 Utahns die every week from an opioid overdose. Utah leads the nation in prescribing opioids to pregnant women.  1 in 5 women are prescribed an opioid during pregnancy, but in Utah that number is doubled.

The POPPY Study Act calls for research and reports on the following:

  • The current opioid prescribing practices to women during pregnancy
  • Recommendations for reducing opioid misuse during pregnancy
  • Prescription opioid misuse during pregnancy and prescription opioid use during pregnancy for the purpose of Medicine-Assisted Treatment
  • Non-opiate pain management practices during pregnancy
  • Recommendations to increase public awareness of opioid use disorder, the effect of opioid use on an unborn child, and how to protect mother and child through available treatment resources

This bill was cosponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01), Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02), Rep. Mia Love (UT-04) and Rep. Diaz-Balart (FL-25) and is endorsed by the Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH), The Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment, and Intermountain Healthcare. 

Congressman Chris Stewart understands that Utah has been greatly impacted by the opioid epidemic. “The opioid epidemic is heartbreaking. One truly tragic result is children born with addiction. I’m happy to support Congressman Curtis’ legislation to further understand and improve awareness of opioid use during pregnancy to help families in Utah and across the nation.”

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart supports Curtis’ bill to seek and provide answers for this important issue. “The opioid epidemic is affecting Americans across the country, stealing parents, children, siblings, and other loved ones from their families. There is still much we do not know about the short and long-term impact of opioid abuse on pregnant women and their unborn children. I am glad to support this legislation that will provide for further research on opioid prescribing practices, use, and treatment for pregnant women.”

Alan Pruhs, the Executive Director of AUCH, recognizes the importance of research on how opioids affect expectant mothers. “An improved understanding of how pregnant women are impacted by the opioid epidemic would enhance the ability of HCs to provide comprehensive care for the pregnant patients they serve.”

Lisa Nichols, Community Health Executive Director added: “We are pleased that the Congressman is bringing awareness to this important issue. Utah leads the nation in opioid prescribing to pregnant women. It is vital to understand and address this prescribing to improve maternal and child health outcomes.”

Richard Nance, Director of the Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment, praised Congressman Curtis’ efforts to find solutions for the women that are disproportionately affected. He said: “your bill from the three major federal agencies concerned directly with this issue is essential to guide the nation on the best course of action to address this overlooked aspect of the current opiate epidemic.”

Read letters of support from The Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention here and the Association for Utah Community Health here.


Last month, Rep. Curtis wrote an op-ed arguing for the need for his POPPY Study that can be read here.