The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission today hailed congressional passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which bans employers and health insurance providers from discriminating against individuals and families based on their genetic information. The House passed the legislation yesterday by a vote of 414-1 following the Senate’s 95-0 approval April 24.
A key provision in GINA also prohibits discrimination against individuals and families whose unborn children or children in the process of being adopted are revealed to have genetic predisposition toward certain diseases. The amendment, offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), closed a loophole found in early drafts of the legislation.
Genetic testing can help identify hereditary links to ailments such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain forms of cancer.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the ERLC, praised the passage of GINA, which was first introduced 13 years ago.
“I applaud the Congress, both Senate and House, for passing this extremely important legislation to protect the privacy of the genetic information of each individual human being. No one should be discriminated against in this society based upon his or her genetic makeup or any genetic markers for debilitating illnesses,” he said.
Many people have avoided undergoing genetic testing for fear that their health insurance providers might raise premiums or drop their coverage if test results showed a predisposition to a genetic disorder. The possibility of employers making hiring, firing and promotion decisions based on an individual’s genetic information has also discouraged such testing.
The legislation will now be sent to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it into law.
_The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.2 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C._