Saturday, April 29, 2006

You cannot trust the government when the Republicans are running it

This article is long but well worth reading, about the power social conservatives have right now, which includes the power to place lies and misinformation on governmental websites concerning health - especially women's health and reproductive health - and science in general. Chris Mooney has a whole chapter or two on this topic, but this article is exceptionally good as well:

The new lies about women's health.

Here are a couple of choice excerpts, the article is longish, but read the whole thing (the image at the top of the article may not be entirely safe for work, or, more correctly, your work may not be safe for such an image. Bolding is mine):

Dr. Shaber tries hard to separate fact from fiction because, she says, "rumor and hearsay can start to seem real." In the past, she'd sometimes refer patients to government websites and printed fact sheets, or rely on those outlets to help create her own materials. Not anymore. "As a physician, I can no longer trust government sources," says Dr. Shaber.
Yet this decidedly mainstream doctor and administrator says, "I no longer trust FDA decisions or materials generated [by the government]. Ten years ago, I would not have had to scrutinize government information. Now I don't feel comfortable giving it to my patients."

Such doctor mistrust represents a major change. For the past 100 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been the world's premier government agency ensuring drug safety. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have similarly stellar track records. But recently, Dr. Shaber charges, the government has lost its most precious asset: credibility.

How did it happen? Many prominent figures in science and public health think they know the answer. "People believe that religiously based social conservatives have direct lines to the powers that be within the U.S. government, the administration, Congress, and are influencing public-health policy, practice and research in ways that are unprecedented and very dangerous," says Judith Auerbach, Ph.D., a former NIH official who is now a vice president at the nonprofit American Foundation for AIDS Research.
It's extremely rare for a scientific conference to turn into something more like a political rally. "Scientists do not normally engage in what is going on in Washington, D.C., or politics," says Wood. But at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last February, a special conference was added to the agenda to discuss how politics have invaded the realm of science.

It quickly became a standing-room-only event, and scientists applauded as speakers like Wood and Nobel winner David Baltimore, Ph.D., president of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, condemned the government's interference in research.

Wood was struck by the overwhelming number of people who attended. "Scientists from across the country, from all kinds of fields, were there," she says, "because they care a great deal about how science is done and how data are analyzed and how the information is used." Why were they finally voicing their fears? "I think as people become more aware [of the interference in science], they are willing to step up and say, 'This is not what we want,'" Wood says.

For a group of researchers, the rhetoric was fiery. Baltimore accused the Bush administration of suppressing science. And when Wood said that morale at the FDA had sunk to a new low because of overwhelming pressure from social conservatives, she got a standing ovation.

Outside of the halls of science, who are the real victims of this political maneuvering? "The American public, particularly American women," says Trussell. "Who's hurt when you can't get EC over the counter? When there is a suggestion that abortion causes breast cancer—something that is entirely made up? When it's suggested that condoms are not effective against STDs, when in reality they are effective against HIV and even HPV? Women."

But many women can't imagine how these lies could possibly have an impact on them, Trussell says. "The first time one of them walks into a pharmacy and can't get her birth control pill prescription filled, that will have a wake-up effect. Most won't feel the effects until these rights are gone—they can't believe there would be a time when these things would be outlawed. I hope their belief is true, but I'm very worried."

(Hat-tip: Bitch PhD)

Update: A good take on this by Accidental Blogger

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:07 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink