ACLU Welcomes Continued Action On Legislation to Ban Discrimination

September 6, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — As Congressional support continues to grow, the American Civil Liberties Union today strongly urged the House of Representatives to quickly adopt bipartisan 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.”

Legislation to protect against genetic discrimination has been introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY. A panel of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is holding a hearing today on the question of genetic nondiscrimination in health insurance.

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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