Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Schultheis Stirs Controversy With Comments About AIDS Testing of In Utero Infants

A Republican senator's claim that pregnant women should not be provided HIV testing because those who suffer from AIDS must be punished for "sexual promiscuity" set off controversy at the capitol today.

The remarks by Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, marks the second time this week that a GOP legislator has shocked colleagues at the podium.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, compared homosexuality to murder during a debate Monday on another measure that would require the state to allow its employees to designate same-sex domestic partners as beneficiaries under their health insurance policies.

"This stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can't go there," Schultheis said on the Senate floor this morning. "We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. I'm not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions."

Schultheis' comments came during the Senate's discussion of SB 179, which would, among other things, require health care facilities to test all pregant women who do not opt out for the human immunodeficiency virus.

During an interview with the Rocky Mountain News later in the day Schultheis attempted to clarify his comments. He explained that families would learn to avoid "promiscuity" if an HIV-infected baby is born to a woman who has AIDS.

"What I'm hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that," the veteran Colorado Springs legislator told the Rocky. "The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior."

Sponsoring Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, pointed out during floor debate on the measure this morning that sexual intercourse is not the only way a woman can contract HIV.

Tochtrop also said that treatment of an infected mother can dramatically reduce the likelihood that HIV Is transferred to the developing fetus.

Tochtrop and House sponsor Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, are nurses.

Renfroe's comments came during a debate on a bill to require the state to permit its employees to designate domestic partners as beneficiaries under health insurance policies.

"Leviticus 18:22 says, 'You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a female. It is an abomination,'" Renfroe said during debate on SB 88. "Leviticus 20:13 says, 'If there is a man who lies with a male as though to lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act, and they shall surely be put to death.' We are taking sins and making them to be legally OK, and that is wrong. That is an abomination, according to scripture."

"And I'm not saying that this is the only sin that's out there," Renfroe said. "Obviously we have sin, we have murder, we have all sorts of sin. We have adultery, and we would never think to make murder legal."