Women & AIDS Clinic and ACLU File Suit Alleging Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Woman

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
June 28, 2000 12:00 am

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NEWARK, NJ — The Women and AIDS Clinic at Rutgers Law School and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey state officials for discriminating against an HIV positive woman and her newborn child.

“A woman does not lose her right to decide whether or not to undergo an HIV test simply because she is pregnant,” added Lenora Lapidus, Legal Director of the ACLU-NJ. “And she certainly does not lose the right to raise her child simply because she is HIV-positive.”

In their lawsuit, the ACLU and the Women and AIDS Clinic said that actions taken against a woman — identified in court papers as Jane Doe – by Capital Health System and the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and the New Jersey AIDS Assistance Act. The complaint also alleges that the state, in an effort to remove the child from the woman’s custody, filed false affidavits stating that the woman was taking illegal drugs at the time of her pregnancy.

In July 1998, the woman went to Capital Health System for a doctor’s visit when she began experiencing severe cramping during her pregnancy. The woman was advised that blood work would have to be performed to determine the cause of the cramping. Without written consent or authorization, the woman’s blood was tested for HIV. After the birth, the child was removed from the mother’s custody based upon her refusal to provide AZT to the newborn.

“New Jersey law mandates that pregnant women be counseled regarding HIV testing,” said Cynthia M. Dennis, Director of the Woman and AIDS Clinic. “The law does not permit unauthorized HIV testing after a pregnant woman has decided not to consent to testing.”

The case, Doe v. Division of Youth and Family Services, et al., was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Does’ attorneys are Cynthia M. Dennis, Clinical Attorney and Director of the Women and AIDS Clinic at Rutgers Law School- Newark, and Lenora M. Lapidus, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

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