With one in four women experiencing severe physical violence from their intimate partners, Assemblywoman Joann Downey sponsors a bill that would help protect and screen for victims of domestic violence in healthcare settings.
The bill (A-4920) would require obstetrical providers, including gynecologists and certified midwives, to perform regular domestic violence screenings during routine patient visits and document the findings in the patient’s medical records. The screening must be performed in a private area and if domestic violence is suspected, the provider must advise the patient of resources and services available to victims.
The provider must also give their patient a referral to other health care professionals if another provider’s services are needed to fully address the physical and mental consequences of domestic violence.
Any obstetrical provider or other health care professional who documents evidence of domestic violence must encourage patients to take appropriate action to prevent their medical records from being disclosed to the domestic abuser, such as removing the abuser from the list of people authorized to receive a copy of their records.
Upon the measure being advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on Monday, Assembly sponsor Downey (D-Monmouth) issued the following statement:
“Victims of domestic violence often do not know who to turn to when their partner abuses them, or fear what would happen if they sought help. With many victims needing medical care as a result of the physical harm inflicted by their partner, medical professionals – especially obstetrical providers – are in a unique position to detect domestic violence and offer assistance. Conducting regular screening and offering advice to patients experiencing intimate partner violence will help keep victims safe and get them the help they need.”