Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (R) has ordered a review of the federal government’s handling of the controversial Translocation Act, which aims to allow the government to transfer genes from individuals to their offspring.
In a letter to the heads of the Department of Health and Health Services, Price said he would “conduct an urgent review” of the act.
The bill, which has faced intense criticism from civil rights groups and some state and local officials, is one of several controversial measures aimed at creating a nationwide “genotype-diversity” database that could enable scientists to test genes that could help in diagnosing genetic diseases and other diseases.
The legislation was introduced in May to address a shortage of gene-testing companies in the United States, where the number of applicants for the work is at a historic low.
The bill was approved by the House of Representatives in June, but failed to pass the Senate, where Republican senators blocked the measure.
The new administration has made no secret of its disdain for the bill, and its impact on federal funding.
Price said that in his view, the bill would result in an “abysmal” public health response.
“The bill would lead to an unacceptable public health crisis that would have dire consequences for the nation,” Price wrote.
“We cannot allow this to happen.”
The bill is also facing pressure from civil liberties groups who have called the legislation discriminatory and unconstitutional.
It would allow gene-splicing and gene editing of embryos in the name of gene conservation.
In an opinion piece published on the website Vox, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty wrote that the bill “is a major step toward turning the United State into a ‘segregation’ nation.”
“It is the biggest threat to social justice since Jim Crow, the worst kind of racial segregation since the Jim Crow era,” the organization said.
“If this legislation becomes law, people who do not identify as members of any ethnic group will be denied basic health care and public housing, and their children will be given the wrong kinds of education and be subject to unfair, discriminatory, and dangerous government policy,” the advocacy group said.
Price is among several officials under pressure to remove the bill from the president’s agenda, which is the highest priority of the president in the wake of the shooting at the GOP congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday.