New Jersey Legislature Approves Bill Requiring Pregnant Women, Some Infants To Receive HIV Tests
The New Jersey Assembly and Senate recently voted 74-5 and 37-0, respectively, 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/Philadelphia Daily News reports (Hester, AP/Philadelphia Daily News, 6/21).
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. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/11). According to the AP/Daily News, the state has about 115,000 births annually and had seven infants born with HIV in 2005.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other women's groups say that the bill deprives women of authority to make medical decisions. Maretta Short, president of the National Organization of Women of New Jersey, said, "Women's privacy rights and choices are as constitutionally valid as any other citizen, regardless of reproductive status." The bill now goes to Gov. Jon Corzine (D) for consideration (AP/Philadelphia Daily News, 6/21).