(New York, NY -- May 21, 2008) -- Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, salutes President Bush for signing into law the “Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act” (GINA) (H.R. 493). Hadassah also applauds Congress for its hard work in passing this historic legislation, as well as the leadership of the GINA’s chief sponsors, Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Sens. Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and its co-sponsors.
Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk said today, “GINA truly represents, as others have said, the first civil rights legislation of the 21st century. Americans will no longer fear the insurance and employment consequences of undergoing vital genetic tests. GINA ensures that no individual will have to choose between health information and their job, or between health information and health care.
“The passage of this historic legislation is cause for celebration by every single American. Genetic discrimination is not just about Jewish women or other ethnic groups in which genetic predispositions have been identified. As every person carries genetic mutations, this law protects each and every one of us – men and women alike, regardless of ethnic heritage.
“In addition, GINA represents proper public policy that is keeping pace with the rapidly evolving area of genetics research. With the mapping of the human genome, we are now in an era that holds unprecedented promise for treating and curing disease. By absolving fears of discrimination, GINA will accelerate this area of science that was previously hindered by the belief that participation in clinical trials would expose private genetic information to employers and insurers.”
For more than a dozen years, Hadassah’s 300,000 members and Associates have led the charge on behalf of the American Jewish community in advocating for genetic nondiscrimination legislation. In 1996, Hadassah passed a policy statement resolving to advocate for legal protections against genetic discrimination and, since then, has tirelessly lobbied Congress for the adoption of meaningful federal protections from the misuse of genetic information in employment and health insurance decisions. Hadassah has also worked closely with GINA’s sponsors to ensure the inclusion of key components of the legislation, and has twice provided Congressional testimony on this issue. In 2000, Hadassah founded the Coalition for Genetic Fairness, a nationwide coalition of civil rights, patient, health care and industry groups and employers that campaigns for the passage of federal genetic nondiscrimination legislation and educates the public about these protections.
The effort to ban genetic discrimination has been one of Hadassah’s top domestic priorities since medical research studies found that some genetic mutations predisposing individuals to certain forms of cancer have particularly high frequencies in Ashkenazi Jews.