ACLU Welcomes New Action On Legislation to Ban Genetic Discrimination

June 7, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today joined with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other key legislators in calling on Congress to quickly enact legislation to protect Americans from genetic discrimination.

“No one should lose a job or insurance policy because of a genetic predisposition,” said Ronald Weich, an ACLU legislative consultant. “Americans should be judged on their actual abilities, not their potential disabilities. It’s time for Congress to act to give Americans the protections they need.”

Senator Daschle, D-SD, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, and other key lawmakers held a news conference today to announce a new bipartisan effort to win passage of their legislation, the “Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act” (S. 318/H.R. 602).

The ACLU said it believes Congress should take immediate steps to protect genetic privacy for three reasons. First, it is inherently unfair to discriminate against someone based on unchangeable characteristics that do not limit their abilities. Secondly, genetic tests do not show with certainty that any individual will eventually develop a disease or how severe their symptoms might be.

Finally, the threat of genetic discrimination leads individuals to decline genetic screenings and other health services to avoid revealing information that may be used against them.

The ACLU has endorsed the Daschle-Slaughter 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.
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