Pregnant woman

While one of the bigger health care bills signed this week into law by Gov. Phil Murphy preserved regulations in the federal Affordable Care Act, others that focus on infant mortality and legal protections in gestational carrier agreements also became law.

The state Department of Children and Families will create a Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board to study racial and ethnic disparities that contribute to infant deaths.

The goal of the law is for the review board to be able to identify the causes, relationships to government support systems and prevention methods associated with child and infant deaths.

Mortality rates are significantly higher for black infants than white infants, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate is 50 percent lower for white infants than black infants.

Some South Jersey communities, including Atlantic City and Camden, have higher rates than others, according to state health data.

“We owe it to the mothers and children of our communities to understand this disparity,” Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, said in a statement. “Ultimately, the more we understand why and how these tragedies happen, the more we can prevent them.”

Another bill signed into law Wednesday will provide guidelines on gestational carrier agreements — where a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child who is not genetically related to her — for an individual or couples seeking to expand their families.

Advanced technology has opened doors to ways couples or individuals can have children, including implanting an embryo into a woman who is not biologically related to the child.

“Ignoring the legal issues that accompany technological advancements does not remove the challenges, it merely adds an additional burden on loving couples or individuals who are already struggle to have a child,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said in a statement. “With this law, intended parents and gestational surrogates will have the legal protections that were denied to them before.”

The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act outlines specific guidelines the carrier and intended parents must follow when writing up agreements, including that the carrier be at least 21 years old and have already given birth to at least one child.

Medical and psychological evaluations would be required, according to the law.

Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

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