In a letter delivered Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, a dozen House of Representatives Democrats charged HHS with using committee appointments, financial audits and Internet sites to promote a conservative political agenda that sometimes runs counter to well-established science.
"A series of troubling reports have come out casting doubt on the administration's commitment to the tradition of scientific excellence and science-based decisionmaking at HHS, suggesting that the tradition is being substantially undermined," wrote the group led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
HHS Deputy Secretary Claude Allen described many of the complaints as a "rehash" and defended the administration's prerogative to create advisory committees with diverse views. Many recent changes are part of an effort to keep up to date with scientific developments, he said.
The letter gave as one example the Web site of the National Institutes of Health, which removed "scientific findings of the National Cancer Institute that, contrary to popular myth, abortions do not increase the risk of breast cancer." More than three months ago, a bipartisan group of House members asked Thompson to restore this information; they have received no reply, Monday's letter said.
The lawmakers also questioned why NIH and CDC Web sites have removed fact sheets on "the effectiveness of condoms" and a sex education curriculum called "Programs that Work." "Having evidence-based information on preventing pregnancy and [STDs] is critical to the health of our young people," they wrote. "Removal of this information... strongly suggests an ideological, rather than a scientific, agenda at work."
Today, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice plans a news conference denouncing what it views as "the growing influence of religious extremism on reproductive health care." The coalition has joined a growing chorus of activists who object to the appointment of W. David Hager to chair the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration. Hager, a Kentucky gynecologist, is co-author of "Stress and the Woman's Body," a medical book promoting "the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life."
Back to other CDC news for October 22, 2002