Loophole Feared in U.S. Genetic-Data Bill

Might Discriminate Against the Unborn, Says Cardinal Rigali

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Justin Rigali asked Congress to correct a loophole in a genetic-information bill which he says would allow discrimination against the unborn or those children in the process of being adopted.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities sent a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee, which is expected to address the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act this week.

The bill is designed to keep employers or insurance companies from discriminating against individuals or their families based on results of genetic tests.

However, Cardinal Rigali calls an “unfortunate and apparently unintentional loophole” the definition of family member, which the bill uses in four places. The bill defines family member to include “a child who is born to or placed for adoption with the individual.”

With this wording, the cardinal warns, insurance companies or employers could discriminate against a child before birth, or a child still in the process of being adopted.

“Thus, for example, an insurance company may misuse knowledge of a child’s genetic defect to raise a woman’s premiums, cancel her insurance, or even pressure her to have an abortion or cancel adoption plans for a child with special needs,” explains Cardinal Rigali, who is archbishop of Philadelphia.

He adds: “This bill would not provide a remedy, because the company did not misuse genetic information about the woman of a ‘family member’ — as defined by the bill — in fact, if the discrimination is successful in achieving its goal, the child will never become a ‘family member’ at all.

“This important practical problem should not become a victim of the politics of abortion.”

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