Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More on Politics and Your Sexual Health

I somehow missed this story when I was in Nebraska last week.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a National STD Prevention Conference. The 2006 conference was held in Florida last week and it was supposed to feature a panel on research on abstinence-only programs. My friend and colleague Bill Smith, the Vice President of Public Policy at SIECUS, had been invited to be part of the panel "Are Abstinence-Only Programs A Threat to Public Health" which had gone through the peer review process to select speakers.

It turns out that Congressman Mark Souder was upset that a critic of abstinence-only programs was going to present at a CDC conference. The panel's title was changed at the last minute to "Public Health Strategies of Abstinence for Youth", Mr. Smith was DISINVITED, and two pro-abstinence-only people were invited to participate, even though they had not been through the peer review process.

One of the new speakers was Dr. Eric Walsh, a family physician affiliated with Loma Linda University. According to SLATE, Dr. Walsh's "approach to public health is explicitly ideological." His web site bio says, "Dr. Walsh seeks to serve the Lord through medical missions and the preaching of the Gospel in all the world. "

Bill told me, "this is the most direct example we have that political appointees will respond to pressure from ideologues when it comes to public health."

I'm taking this kind of personally. I was the CEO and President of SIECUS for 12 years, and Bill is a trusted friend and colleague of mine. But it's more than that. My theological commitment to TRUTH TELLING coupled with my public health training commitment to PREVENTION means that I'd like to believe that we can count on the CDC to be above politics when it comes to the nation's health...even the nation's sexual and reproductive health. I guess not.

P.S. We published the May issue of our newsletter today. If you'd like to be on our newsletter list, sign up at www.religiousinstitute.org

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