Today, nearly every US baby is screened for more than fifty rare genetic disorders, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. This article explores the dramatic expansion of state-mandated newborn screening by analyzing affective enactments within public discourses of newborn screening advocacy. Drawing on public records from newborn screening policy hearings and secondarily on our own ethnographic data, we examine how parent advocacy narratives were carefully crafted in an attempt to produce an emotional response in policy makers. We argue that lifesaving interventions gather momentum within affective economies that cater to naturalized orientations to children such as sympathy and compassion while obscuring the fiscal and opportunity costs of public health programs. By describing how emotionally invested parent advocates have marshaled affect within newborn screening policy arenas, we illustrate affective economies as a powerful catalyst for forms of political action that may inadvertently sustain public health inequities even as they seek to redress them.

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