Texas Election 2014: Abbott Pledges to Safeguard DNA

Nov 24, 2013

Credit Todd Wiseman / Bob Daemmrich / Micah Baldwin / texastribune.org

Texas gubernatorial frontrunner Greg Abbott recently released an extensive list of items he says he’ll push for once elected.. Ths list includes gun rights, campaign ethics, and blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but the number one item is safeguarding your DNA according to KUT News

DNA rights have become increasingly important as technology creates more ways to collect, store and use the data. Abbott is concerned about governments or private companies exploiting people’s genetic material for their own gain.

But University of Texas School of Law professor Lynn Blais isn’t sure Abbott’s plan is on the right track.

"I think the issue of the use of DNA is certainly an important issue in the state and in the country," Blais says. "But I don’t really see it as an issue of property rights. I see it as an issue of privacy.”

Blais has taught property law at UT for more than two decades. She says the problem is that without specific legislation, Abbott’s proposal might not change anything. "Just saying we have a property right doesn’t answer the question of what your rights are with respect to your DNA," Blais says.

Michael Risher is a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. He says your DNA may have even fewer protections when the criminal justice system gets involved.

The Texas Tribune reported Deborah Peel, founder and chairwoman of Patient Privacy Rights, said Abbott’s proposals would give residents unprecedented control over DNA and private information in the state. The disclosure of medical information has harmed individuals because it can lead to discrimination from third parties, including health insurance providers and employers, Peel said.

“My whole career has been watching how people’s lives are ruined because their medical information is disclosed. I’m happy to see he’s seen [this information] is not safe,” Peel said, adding that the policies would need to be accompanied by “adequate enforcement" to be effective.

The proposal is part of Abbott’s “We The People” plan.