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Bush Administration Places Ideology over Science, Again

The Bush Administration has significantly altered two online fact sheets, leading many to question the political motivations behind some of the most important health institutions in the US. A fact sheet on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website on condom use and STI prevention has been changed in ways that several House Democrats argue furthers Bush’s agenda on abstinence-only education. In addition, a fact sheet on the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website has been changed, calling studies on the so-called link between abortion and breast cancer “inconsistent,” where before the fact sheet stated that scientific evidence overwhelmingly denied the link. Fourteen House Democrats, led by Henry

Waxman (D-CA), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday expressing their outrage that the White House is pushing its political agenda into the realm of scientific fact. Waxman, along with other members of Congress, had previously sent a letter to Thompson when scientific information was removed from the CDC and NCI websites in October. Their most recent letter reports that Thompson had responded, saying that the fact sheets simply needed to be updated to reflect current scientific knowledge. However, the House Democrats argue that the recently revised fact sheets substitute political ideology for complete and accurate scientific information. The new CDC fact sheet on condoms stresses the importance of proper use of condoms to prevent the transmission of disease, but unlike the original fact sheet, it does not include information on how to use condoms correctly or which kinds of condoms are more or less effective at preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancy, the lawmakers argue.

In addition, the original fact sheet discussed the numerous studies showing that sex education curriculum that included information about condoms either had no effect on teenage sexual activity or contributed to delaying the onset of intercourse among teens, according to the letter. The new fact sheet omits mention of these studies, and the lawmakers point out that the Bush Administration argued at the recent UN population conference that, despite scientific evidence to contrary, promoting condom use, even in HIV prevention programs, would encourage adolescent sexual behavior.

The new NCI fact sheet on the so-called link between abortion and breast cancer replaces scientific findings that there is no increased risk of breast cancer among women who have had abortions with a more vague statement indicating that some studies have found an increased risk and others haven’t. “Since at least 1996, the NCI has repeatedly stated in its fact sheets and press releases that there is no direct relationship between breast cancer and either miscarriages or induced abortions,” stated Dr. Beth Jordan, MD, medical director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The shift in position seems to be prompted more by politics than science. Do we really need to spend precious resources looking at this issue when so many critical women’s health concerns are underfunded?”

Sources:

Letter text 12/18/02; CDC fact sheet 12/2/02; NCI fact sheet 11/25/02; CBSNews.com 11/26/02; Associated press 12/18/02; Los Angeles Times 12/19/02

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