Bush Needs To Stop Compromising Science for Politics
Whether it’s stem cell research, contraception, or global warming, this Administration lets politics trump science at the drop of a hat, without regard for the integrity of the scientific process and without regard to the safety of our nation’s public health. This is unacceptable.
(Letter sent to Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services. Co-signed by 38 House Members)
Dear Secretary Leavitt,
We are outraged by recent news reports regarding politically-motivated, last-minute changes made to a panel on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). According to these reports, a panel at this year’s National STD Prevention Conference was changed just days prior to the start of the conference. The original purpose of the panel was to explore the effect of abstinence-only programs on the prevention of STDs. However, the panel reshuffling gave abstinence-only advocates an opportunity to present propaganda. But perhaps most troubling is the clear appearance that this change took place due to political interference by an abstinence-only proponent, who is a Member of Congress. This subversion of science to political ideology is unacceptable and dangerous to the public health.
According to news reports, the panel, originally entitled “Are Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?” was changed after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received an e-mail from a congressional aide, raising questions about the panel. Despite the fact that the originally planned panel had already gone through the peer-review process, the panel was changed. The new title of the panel, “Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth,” the removal of a witness who planned to discuss a report that is critical of abstinence-only programs, and the addition of two panelists who are abstinence-only advocates clearly show that HHS bowed to political pressures at the expense of promoting honest dialogue about our nation’s public health.
Playing politics with our nation’s public health is unacceptable. This conference should have been a forum for scientists to freely discuss objective, scientific-based prevention methods for STDs. Instead, honest discussion has been stifled, ideas censored, and our nation’s public health will suffer as a result. We are deeply disappointed in HHS’ actions in this case and urge you to resist future temptations to politicize science.
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