ACLU Welcomes Effort to Force Vote On Legislation to Ban Genetic Discrimination

June 21, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union joined a broad coalition of advocacy organizations and members of Congress today in announcing a petition drive that, if successful, would force a vote on legislation to protect Americans from genetic discrimination.

“No one should lose a job or insurance policy because of a genetic predisposition. Americans should be judged on their actual abilities, not their potential disabilities,” said Ronald Weich, a legislative consultant to the American Civil Liberties Union. “Its time for Congress to stop dragging its feet on legislation that would protect Americans from genetic discrimination.”

Members of Congress, led by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), were joined by the ACLU and health advocacy groups at a news conference announcing the launch of a discharge petition on H.R. 2457, the “Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act.” Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Tom Daschle (D-ND), sponsors of a similar Senate bill, S. 1322, attended and lent their encouragement. If proponents gather 218 signatures on the petition, the bill would be taken from the Commerce Committee where it has languished and put before the full House for a vote.

“There is no time to waste – scientists are expected to complete a map of the human genome within a few days,” Weich said. “This medical breakthrough should be a cause for celebration, but instead many people are scared that genetic tests will be used against them.”

The House Republican leadership has refused to hold hearings on the bill, which would:

  • Prohibit health insurers from restricting enrollment or adjusting fees on the basis of predictive genetic information.
  • Bar health insurers and employers from requiring genetic testing and from obtaining predictive genetic information.
  • Prevent employers from discriminating based on genetic information in all areas of employment, including hiring and compensation.
  • The ACLU noted that genetic tests can only indicate that someone has a predisposition to a health condition, not whether or not he or she will actually ever develop the condition.

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