ASHG President Gail Jarvik Comments on New Texas Anti-Abortion Law

Members of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) strive to further understanding of the human genome for the betterment of science, health and society. As a community of genetics researchers, ASHG is deeply concerned by the passage and implementation of Texas law S.B. 8 and the potential passage of similar bills nationwide, which will adversely affect women’s health. The law denies women and their families the ability to use health information stemming from human genetics research by prohibiting abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Decades of genetics research have enabled clinicians to identify the genetic signals of many deadly, devastating and debilitating fetal conditions. This medical information has had a profound effect for individuals who learn wrenching news for their families. It also empowers those individuals to make difficult and personal choices to terminate or continue a pregnancy. Because many devastating diagnoses can only be determined later in fetal development and the Texas law effectively bans abortion at only six weeks into a pregnancy, it will prevent women and families from using genetic information to inform reproductive decisions.  It will deny women their established constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy up to the point of viability.

The Society strongly reaffirms its support for a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions.  Women must be free to make these decisions in a way that maintains the privacy of their health information and protects them from intimidation or retribution.  We stand with our clinical partners, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the National Society of Genetic Counselors, who are speaking out for patients’ rights and oppose the Texas law. We also stand with our clinical partners in expressing profound concerns about the potential legal exposure clinical genetics professionals might face for providing clinically relevant scientific and medical information to help inform patient decisions.

ASHG will continue to support the value of using genetic knowledge, including during pregnancy, in both guiding and informing decision-making. As noted previously, we do so while respecting and acknowledging the diversity of views of our members regarding reproductive choice. ASHG opposes the enforcement of this law and its impact on obstructing the use of genetics in healthcare.

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