Newborn DNA Sent to U.S. Military for Law Enforcement Database without Parent Consent

(St. Paul/Minneapolis) - In a review of nine years of Texas health department emails, the Texas Tribune has discovered, "the transfer of hundreds of infant blood spots to an Armed Forces laboratory to build a national and, someday, international mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) registry."

Texas began storing newborn DNA, collected for the newborn screening program, in 2002 without parent consent. A recent lawsuit against the State was settled, forcing Texas officials to destroy the 5.3 million infant blood spots in storage.

The Tribune story notes that DNA from certain types of individuals was sought for the federal law enforcement and anti-terrorism database, and that the researchers secured DNA samples from prison populations and infant blood screening in other states, including Florida, Minnesota and California. Efforts to limit public knowledge of the transfer were also unearthed in the emails which were released after the lawsuit was settled.

Twila Brase, president of Citizens' Council on Health Care, an organization that has been working to protect Baby DNA since it discovered Minnesota's Baby DNA Warehouse in 2003, provides the following statement in response to this discovery:

  • "These babies are newborn citizens. They are also innocent of any crimes. State storage and subsequent transfer of newborn DNA to the federal government for law enforcement and anti-terrorism efforts is an egregious violation of individual rights.

  • "No adult would allow the government to store their DNA without consent and no expectant parent should enter a hospital in fear of what will happen to their infant's DNA after the State's newborn genetic screening is completed.

  • "The only way to protect citizens at birth is to take newborn genetic screening out of the hands of State public health laboratories and put hospitals in charge of the testing.

  • "Explicit informed written parent consent for storage, use or research - public or private - should be a statutory requirement in every newborn screening program.

According to the American-Stateman, the transfer of newborn DNA was not discovered during the parent's lawsuit because the case was settled prior to discovery. A Texas health department spokeswoman quoted in the news story said the transfer was not mentioned during the lawsuit because the lawyer never asked, and because, "We don't publicize every agency initiative or contract, and obviously this is a sensitive topic."

For an 10-point overview of the Baby DNA issue, and a state-by-state list of State retention of newborn DNA, go to IT'S MY DNA!


Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President and Co-founder
Office: 651-646-8935