Indiana Bill That Would Require Prenatal HIV Testing Unless Women Opt Out Stalled in Senate
An Indiana bill (HB 1630) that would require pregnant women to be tested for HIV during pregnancy or before delivery unless they specifically refuse is stalled in the state Senate, the Indianapolis Star reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Peggy Welch (D), would require women who do not wish to be tested for HIV to sign a form indicating that they were offered the test but refused. Current state law requires that all pregnant women be offered an HIV test and mandates that those women who agree to be tested sign a consent form before being tested. The House last month voted 90-8 to approve the bill, and the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services earlier this month unanimously approved the bill. Supporters of the measure said that more widespread testing could help identify HIV-positive women before delivery so they could receive treatment and possibly prevent vertical HIV transmission, the Star reports. Dr. Richard Feldman, who supports the bill and spoke on behalf of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, said that even though only six of the 45 women who gave birth to HIV-positive infants in Indiana in 2000 did not know their HIV status, "even one baby born HIV-positive is too many," according to the Star. Opponents of the measure said that such a law is a violation of privacy and could make some women avoid prenatal care. Rep. David Orentlicher (D), who is also a physician, said, "The more you put pressure on people, some people are going to respond by withholding consent." Wyndi Anderson, a National Advocates for Pregnant Women organizer, said, "This is an invasion of privacy. Legislatively ... the next thing that starts to happen is you move toward mandatory testing."
All Agree That Prenatal HIV Testing is 'Good Idea'
Although individuals on both sides of the debate agree that testing pregnant women for HIV is "a good idea," they disagree on how the state should pursue that end. Sen. Pat Miller (R), the Senate sponsor, said, "The intent is to try to get people to do it, but not to be punitive," adding, "The emphasis is on how important it is to be tested." Legislators on both sides of the issue have made multiple changes to the bill, including adding a provision that would continue treatment for HIV-positive women after they give birth and a counseling provision. The Indiana State Medical Association, which initially pushed for the measure, expressed concern that the bill had been "too watered-down" from its original form, according to the Star. Lobbyist Jim Zieba said, "In the current form, it doesn't do anything that really provides for better care for the patient." ISMA's goal is to have HIV testing included with other routine prenatal tests. Yesterday was the last day the Senate could vote on the bill, and Miller had not yet called for a vote on the measure on Wednesday (Penner, Indianapolis Star, 4/10).