New Jersey Senate Committee Approves Bill Requiring Pregnant Women, Some Infants To Receive HIV Tests
The New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Thursday voted to approve a bill (S 2704) that would require all pregnant women and some infants in the state to be tested for HIV unless women choose in writing to opt out of the test, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Hester, AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/7).
New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey (D) introduced the bill in May. Current state law requires health care providers to offer HIV tests to pregnant women. Codey's bill would require pregnant women to be tested for HIV as early as possible in their pregnancy and again during the third trimester. In addition, physicians and health care providers would be required to provide pregnant women with information about HIV/AIDS, the benefits of being tested, available medical treatment and how treatment can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/14). The bill also would require infants to be tested for HIV if the mother is HIV-positive or if her HIV status is unknown at the time of birth.
"The sooner pregnant women can be tested for the HIV infection, the sooner they can be treated," Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred Jacobs, who endorsed the bill, said. The legislation "needlessly sacrifices the rights of women and parents" and "deprives women of their moral authority to make decisions for themselves and for children," Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said, adding, "HIV testing must be informed, voluntary and free from coercion." Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), another bill sponsor and health committee member, said, "We are not forcing women into anything. We are merely providing an easier way for women to get tested." The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. A spokesperson for Gov. Jon Corzine (D) said the governor is reviewing the bill (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/7).