Democratic Lawmakers Accuse Bush Administration of Political Bias in Deleting Information From New CDC Condom Fact Sheet
A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers yesterday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson accusing the Bush administration of "playing politics" by eliminating "key information" on condom use in a new fact sheet recently posted on the CDC Web site, the Los Angeles Times reports. Led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the lawmakers criticized the administration for eliminating from the fact sheet instructions on how to properly use a condom and information from studies indicating that educating young people about condom use does not foster earlier sexual activity. Both topics were covered in the original fact sheet created in 1996 during the Clinton administration (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). The lawmakers wrote, "The apparent purpose of these alterations and deletions is to remove information that conflicts with the administration's preference for 'abstinence-only' programs" (Letter text, 12/18). The condom fact sheet previously said that abstaining from sex was the best way to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, but it also stated that "for those who have sexual intercourse, latex condoms are highly effective when used consistently and correctly." The new version of the fact sheet, which was posted on Dec. 2, includes in its introduction that condoms "can reduce the risk of STD transmission. However, no protective method is 100% effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/19). The lawmakers also criticized the administration for altering a fact sheet concerning the alleged link between abortion and breast cancer. The previous version said that women who have an abortion were at "the same risk as other women for developing breast cancer." The new fact sheet says that "studies are inconsistent" on the association between abortion and breast cancer, according to the Times.
Waxman in late October wrote Thompson "chid[ing]" the Bush administration for removing the condom fact sheet from the CDC Web site altogether for more than a year and a half while officials updated it, according to the Times. "I think this is an Orwellian trend at HHS. Information that used to be based on science is being systematically removed from the public," Waxman said (Los Angeles Times, 12/19). Thompson responded to Waxman in a letter sent in late November that included responses to six requests made by Waxman. Thompson wrote that HHS "has a long tradition of employing the best scientific information for internal decision making" (Letter text, 11/27). The Times reports that Waxman and colleagues have "not been satisfied" with Thompson's responses (Los Angeles Times, 12/19). Dr. David Fleming, CDC's deputy director for science, defended the actions of the Bush administration, saying that the CDC chose a "more neutral" introduction for the condom fact sheet because of the "mixed evidence" on the issue. "This fact sheet is designed to be as scientifically accurate as possible. We specifically tried not to nuance it in the direction of either encouraging or discouraging use of condoms," Fleming said (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/19).