WEDNESDAY DEC 25, 2007 (Foodconsumer.org) -- The state of New Jersey Senate has approved legislation to force pregnant women and their newborns to receive HIV testing, a measure that critics say would deprive women of their right to make medical decisions.
Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey was reportedly ready to sign the measure into law today at
Newark. The law would take effect in six months once signed. Gov. Jon S. Corzine is out of the country for the holidays.
"We can significantly reduce the number of infections to newborns and help break down the stigma associated with the disease," Codey was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "For newborns, early detection can be the ultimate lifesaving measure."
The law would allow pregnant women to opt out the mandated screening though.
But it's not clear whether the healthcare providers are obliged to inform patients that they have a right to opt out.
Often hospitals and doctors do not want their patients to make any medical decision.
However, the law would require doctors and hospitals to provide pregnant women with information on HIV and AIDS, apparently so that they may accept whatever screening is forced on them. The law would also require newborns be tested should the mother have tested positive or her status is unknown.
New Jersey would be the first state in the nation to push HIV testing for both pregnant women and newborns, according to the Kaiser Foundation, a not-for-profit medical policy watchdog.
Early there is reporting that some other states including
Texas require mothers to be tested for HIV unless they ask not to be tested.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all pregnant women be screened for HIV although it says that the testing should be voluntary.
According to the federal health agency, medical intervention during pregnancy can reduce the odds of the mother-to-child HIV transmission from 25 percent to 2%.
Critics say women who are concerned can ask for the testing whenever they want.
Forced screening is a deprivation of women's authority to make medical decisions, the American Civil Liberties and some women's groups argued.
"Women's privacy rights and choices are as constitutionally valid as any other citizen, regardless of reproductive status," The AP quoted Maretta J. Short, New Jersey's National Organization of Women president as saying.