Critics Accuse Bush Administration of Trumping Science With Politics

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Thursday, July 12, 2007; 12:00 AM

WEDNESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Health experts said Wednesday they agreed with former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona's claim that the Bush administration has continually silenced medical and scientific opinions in favor of politics and religious dogma.

During his testimony before a Congressional panel on Tuesday, Carmona said that "top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations,"The New York Timesreported.

"It doesn't surprise us to hear that the administration was ignoring science and attempting to silence scientists. That's how they have operated about stem cells for years," said Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an umbrella group that represents more than 100 medical associations, colleges, scientific societies and foundations interested in promoting stem cell research.

Tipton said the White House's position on embryonic stem cell research was a political decision from "day one."

"The administration has been upfront that they didn't make this decision on scientific grounds," he said.

There is a legitimate moral consideration involving embryonic stem cell research, Tipton said. "There is a moral imperative to help the sick, and the Bush policy flies in the face of that," he said. "The American public gives a different moral value to a fertilized egg in a laboratory than they do to a 9-year-old girl with diabetes."

"Dr. Carmona was reflecting the view of the medical and scientific communities who want to move forward on stem cell research," Tipton added. He said Congress has voted several times to overturn the Bush policy on stem cells and that the majority of the American public supports stem cell research.

Carmona's testimony came just before confirmation hearings to name Dr. James Holsinger as the new U.S. Surgeon General. Holsinger's nomination has been criticized by gay right groups because of remarks he made in 1991 about homosexuality. In a report presented to the United Methodist Church's committee to study homosexuality, Holsinger argued that homosexuality is not natural or healthy.

"Dr. Holsinger has a record that is unworthy of America's doctor," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a prepared statement. "His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans. It is essential that America's top doctor value sound science over anti-gay ideology."

In his testimony, Carmona, who served one term as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, also said the Bush administration would not let him speak on or issue reports about stem cell research, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues.

The Bush administration has a long record of opposition to abortion and contraception. The White House has repeatedly touted abstinence as the only acceptable method of birth control and the best way to prevent sexually transmitted disease like HIV/AIDS. U.S. health agencies have denied funds to groups fighting AIDS that recommend condoms.

Carmona also claimed that Bush administration officials delayed and tried to "water down" a key report on secondhand smoke. The report released last year concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could be harmful.

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