The state of Minnesota has advanced a plan to own the DNA of newborns, preserving it in a warehouse for use in genetic research, experimentation, manipulation, and profiling, according to an advocacy organization seeking to protect the privacy of that individual information.
“Citizen DNA is citizen property. The government should be required to ask, not allowed to take,” said Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council on Health Care, a Minnesota-based organization familiar with the progress in that state.
“If this bill becomes law, each year 73,000 newborn citizens will not be protected by the state genetic privacy law. The [state] will take their DNA and unless the parents figure it out, the government will keep it,” she said.
“Children grow up. Eventually, every citizen will have their DNA owned by state government and available for government to engage in genetic research, experimentation, manipulation, and profiling,” she warned. “What good is the state genetic privacy law if government warehousing and analysis of every child’s DNA from birth is exempt from its informed consent protections?”
In Minnesota, the state’s genetic privacy law was challenged by the Health Department, which lost a court battle over the issue. But now the legislation could give the state government by legislative activism what it could not obtain through the judiciary.
Brase said the state House voted this week to approve the plan forwarded by the state Senate. “If the Senate accepts the minor amendments adopted by the House without a conference committee, the bill could be sent directly to Gov. [Tim] Pawlenty for his signature.”
The legislative specifically would exempt warehousing, use and analysis of newborn blood and DNA from the informed consent requirements of the 2006 Minnesota Genetic Privacy Law.
“We now are considered guinea pigs, as opposed to human beings with rights,” she said, warning such DNA databases could spark the next wave of demands for eugenics, the concept of improving the human race through the control of various inherited traits. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, advocated eugenics to cull people she considered unfit from the population.
In 1921, she said eugenics is “the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems,” and she later lamented “the ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all.”
Minnesota already has stockpiled the DNA of more than 780,000 Minnesota children, and already has subjected the DNA of 42,210 children to research without their consent or knowledge, Brase told WND.
And she confirmed although her organization works with Minnesota issues, similar laws or rules and regulations already are in use across the nation.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, in fact, lists for all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia the various statutes or regulatory provisions under which newborns’ DNA is being collected.
Such programs are offered as “screening” requirements to detect treatable illnesses. They vary as to exactly what tests are done, but the Health Resources and Services Administration has requested a report that would “include a recommendation for a uniform panel of conditions.”
“Fortunately,” he said at the time, “some newborn screening occurs in every state but fewer than half of the states, including Connecticut, actually test for all disorders that are detectable. … This legislation will provide resources for states to expand their newborn screening programs…”
So what’s the big deal about looking into DNA to hunt for various disease possibilities?
Nothing, said Brase, if that’s where the hunt would end.
However, she said, “researchers already are looking for genes related to violence, crime and different behaviors.”
“This isn’t just about diabetes, asthma and cancer,” she said. “It’s also about behavioral issues.”
“In England they decided they should have doctors looking for problem children, and have those children reported, and their DNA taken in case they would become criminals,” she said.
In fact, published reports in the UK note that senior police forensics experts believe genetic samples should be studied, because it may be possible to identify potential criminals as young as age 5.
There, Chris Davis of the National Primary Headteachers’ Association warned the move could be seen “as a step towards a police state.”
Brase said such efforts to study traits and gene factors and classify people would be just the beginning. What could happen through subsequent programs to address such conditions, she wondered.
“Not all research is great,” she said. Such classifying of people could lead to “discrimination and prejudice … People can look at data about you and make assessments ultimately of who you are.”
The Heartland Regional Genetics and Newborn Screening is one of the organizations that advocates more screening and research.
It proclaims in its vision statement a desire to see newborns screened for 200 conditions. It also forecasts “every student … with an individual program for education based on confidential interpretation of their family medical history, their brain imaging, their genetic predictors of best learning methods…”
Further, every individual should share information about “personal and family health histories” as well as “gene tests for recessive conditions and drug metabolism” with the “other parent of their future children.”
Still further, it seeks “ecogenetic research that could improve health, lessen disability, and lower costs for sickness.”
“They want to test every child for 200 conditions, take the child’s history and a brain image, and genetics, and come up with a plan for that child,” Brase said. “They want to learn their weaknesses and defects.
“Nobody including and especially the government should be allowed to create such extensive profiles,” she said.
The next step is obvious: The government, with information about potential health weaknesses, could say to couples, “We don’t want your expensive children,” Brase said.
“I think people have forgotten about eugenics. The fact of the matter is that the eugenicists have not gone away. Newborn genetic testing is the entry into the 21st Century version of eugenics,” she said.
“This is in every state, but nobody is talking about it. Parents have no idea this is happening,” she said.
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