A population-based pilot study of newborns screening for a rare genetic condition, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), is being conducted with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The first component of the study is to assess the ethical, legal, and social implications of population-based pilot studies with a focus on public engagement and parental decision-making for the proposed opt-out approach in this research. We conducted focus groups with members of the general public to ascertain attitudes about the pilot study and acceptability of an opt-out approach in two states, Colorado and Utah, where the pilot screening is being proposed (N = 70). We developed an informational video for the project and showed it to the groups prior to the discussion in order to inform participants about population-based research, newborn screening (NBS), permission/consent models, and SMA. Results indicated support for the conduct of pilot studies that is consistent with the current standard of practice for similar population-based programs. There was support for an opt-out approach for parental decision-making; however there was limited parental knowledge about population-based research, NBS and SMA. In general, our participants considered this pilot study to be low risk and of potential benefit to infants and families. The majority of participants were supportive of an opt-out approach with information delivered through various avenues © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.