U.S. Bishops Conference

Cardinal says genetic testing legislation should be amended

.- Cardinal Justin Rigali called on Congress to correct an “unfortunate and apparently unintentional loophole” in the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493), which might discourage parents from adopting or bearing children with disabilities.

The legislation is designed to prevent employers and health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals and their families, based on the results of genetic tests.

However, Cardinal Rigali explained that the bill seems not to address discrimination against families based on the pre-implantation or prenatal genetic testing of their child, or genetic testing performed on an adoptive child before an adoption is completed.

Rigali, who serves as Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, expressed his concerns in a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee, which is expected to work on the legislation this week.

The Cardinal warns that, given the current bill, 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, because the company does not wish to cover the additional needs of a child who will develop an illness or disability.

“The most fundamental and destructive form of such discrimination would be to use such information to seek to prevent a family from accepting a child with special needs into their lives,” the Cardinal wrote. “I urge you to amend H.R. 493 to make it clear that such invidious discrimination will not be permitted.” 

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