New Jersey this week launched one of the most ambitious efforts in the country to control mother-to-child transmission of HIV, making screening tests mandatory for all pregnant women in the state beginning next year.
A bill signed into law Wednesday by the Senate president, Richard J. Codey, in his capacity as acting governor, requires two tests for pregnant women, at the beginning of the pregnancy and again in the third trimester, unless the mother objects. If the mother objects, the objection will be noted and the newborn will then be tested for HIV, with the only exception being on religious grounds. Newborns will also be tested if the woman tests positive.
Just four other states have mandated testing for pregnant women, and three more — including New York — require screening of newborns. But New Jersey’s law appears to go further by requiring both.
The mandatory screening has raised privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the state’s chapter of the National Organization for Women both questioned whether the mandated tests violate a woman’s right to privacy and the right to make her own medical decisions.
Riki E. Jacobs, executive director of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, a New Jersey nonprofit helping people living with AIDS, said the law is unnecessary and comes when the state should be focused on expanding care for pregnant women. “I am adamantly opposed to this bill. New Jersey already reduced the perinatal rate of transmission with mandatory counseling of pregnant women,” she said. “The issue is getting those women who are not in prenatal care in for services and testing.