H.R. 1313: part of the trend of eugenics

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Advocates for the rights of the disabled have already expressed concern about the direction taken by the Trump administration. Trump famously mocked a disabled reporter during the election, but this was not surprising to anyone familiar with both his bullying tactics and his tradition of promoting ideas that smack of eugenics:

Trump’s father instilled in him the idea that their family’s success was genetic, according to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.

“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development,” D’Antonio says in the documentary. “They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

The Huffington Post dug back through the archives and found numerous examples of Trump suggesting that intellect and success are purely genetic qualities and that having “the right genes” gave him his “very good brain.”

The page about people with disabilities has been removed from the White House website. We have a Secretary of Education who had never even heard of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, prior to her appointment, and an Attorney General who actively opposes it. Now, with the rolling-back of Medicaid expansion, we see the likelihood that disabled and autistic children will be left without coverage. In short, this regime is primed to move in the dangerous direction of creating an illusion of wealth and prosperity by weeding out the “undesirables” (immigrants, the poor, the disabled).

And now a new bill, HR 1313, has been proposed, which would allow employers to require genetic testing of its employees, and give them the “right” to access employees’ health and genetic records. This bill is unequivocally opposed by the American Society of Human Genetics:

If enacted, this bill would fundamentally undermine the privacy provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“We urge the Committee not to move forward with consideration of this bill,” said ASHG president Nancy J. Cox, PhD. “As longtime advocates of genetic privacy, we instead encourage the Committee to pursue ways to foster workplace wellness and employee health without infringing upon the civil rights afforded by ADA and GINA.”

A key component of ADA and GINA is that they prevent workers and their families from being coerced into sharing sensitive medical or genetic information with their employer. For GINA, genetic information encompasses not only employees’ genetic test results but also their family medical histories. H.R.1313 would effectively repeal these protections by allowing employers to ask employees invasive questions about their and their families’ health, including genetic tests they, their spouses, and their children may have undergone. GINA’s requirement that employees’ genetic information collected through a workplace wellness program only be shared with health care professionals would no longer apply.

The bill would also allow employers to impose financial penalties of up to 30 percent of the total cost the employee’s health insurance on employees who choose to keep such information private. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored family health coverage in 2016 was $18,142. Thus, for such a plan, a wellness program could charge employees an extra $5,443 in annual premiums if they choose not to share their genetic and health information.

Recently I had genetic testing done, of my own volition, because of my family’s history of breast cancer, associated with a gene mutation common in those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The conversations surrounding the decision to have testing done were fascinating, because questions about ancestry, genetics, and inherited traits lead one to conversations about the racial prejudice. Being Jewish means many wonderful things, but unfortunately it means being more at risk for carrying a killer gene, and this is exactly the sort of thing that anti-semitic eugenicists love to jump on. Among the semi-educated, the talk can slip from ancestry to ancestral curses, and all the vile reasons racists have concocted, to justify their hatred and oppression of the Jews.

Luckily, I tested negative for the gene. But what if I hadn’t? What if, a few years from now, I suddenly found myself denied health coverage because of this “curse”? If this bill passes, how many women (and men) who carry the breast cancer gene are going to find themselves unable to procure health care? And would people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent – or other genetically at-risk demographics –  be especially targeted for mandatory testing?

This is untenable from a pro-life standpoint. This is part of a larger plan which is driven, not by humanitarian motives or by any acceptable ethic, but by an insidious movement to remove support from the most vulnerable, for the sake of the evil dream of eugenics.

image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Eugenics_congress_logo.png

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