This article also appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News (philly.com),
the New York Blade, and
NJ lawmakers approve HIV testing for pregnant women, newborns
By TOM HESTER Jr., AP, from newsday.com, June 21, 2007
-- New Jersey on Thursday moved to require both pregnant women
and some newborns to be tested for HIV.
The Assembly voted 74-5 and the Senate 37-0 to approve the bill.
The bill now goes to Gov. Jon S. Corzine for his consideration.
It requires all pregnant women be tested twice for HIV, once
early and once late in the pregnancy, unless the mother asks not
to be tested.
It also requires newborns to be tested if either the mother has
tested positive or her HIV status is unknown at time of birth.
Senate President Richard J. Codey cited data that shows medical
treatment during pregnancy can slash mother-to-child HIV
transmission from 25 percent to 2 percent.
"When you ask most expecting parents whether they're hoping for
a boy or a girl, the response, almost universally, is that it
doesn't matter, as long as they're healthy," said Codey, a bill
sponsor. "That's what were striving for and that's what we hope
The state has about 115,000 births per year and had seven
infants born with HIV in 2005.
The American Civil Liberties Union and women's groups contend
the bill deprives women of authority to make medical decisions.
"Women's privacy rights and choices are as constitutionally
valid as any other citizen, regardless of reproductive status,"
said Maretta J. Short, New Jersey's National Organization of
New Jersey law now requires providers only to offer HIV testing
to pregnant women. Under the proposed bill:
_ HIV testing would be part of routine prenatal care for all
pregnant women unless they object.
_ Doctors would provide pregnant woman with information about
HIV and AIDS, including testing benefits, and data about the
reduced risk to the fetus if a pregnant woman receives
_ HIV testing would be avoided only if a woman states her
objection. Any refusal would be documented in her medical
record, but could not become a basis for denying care.
According to the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit research
organization focusing on U.S. health care issues, Arkansas,
Michigan, Tennessee and Texas require health care providers to
test a mother for HIV, unless the mother specifically asks not
to be tested.
Connecticut, Illinois and New York test all newborns for HIV,
according to the foundation.