Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

The Trauma of Politics in Medicine

It’s been a quick reversal for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, reinstating funding some 72 hours after cutting off Planned Parenthood because of new criteria barring grants to organizations under investigation, prompted in this case, by a Republican congressman.

“We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political,” Komen CEO and founder Nancy Brinker said in a statement issued Friday.

The uproar brought more than $3 million in donations to Planned Parenthood in just three days, but also highlights the volatile mixture of politics and medicine.

Dr. Richard Carmona recently observed that one of the most popular presentations he made during his tenure as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States did not address emerging infections, physical trauma, or national diasters, but rather the plague of politics in medicine.

“This traumatic plague of politics is more insidious and virulent than emerging infections; has potentially more morbidity and mortality than hemorrhagic shock or blunt or penetrating trauma; has virtually no diagnostic criteria; and is resistant to all therapy, especially voices of reason, substantive discussion or positions of compromise,” he said during a memorial lecture at the recent meeting of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma.

Dr. Richard Carmona Patrice Wendling/Elsevier Global Medical News

Dr. Carmona didn’t have far to look for examples to flesh out his diagnosis.

More than a century ago, public health officials’ efforts to control the bubonic plague outbreak of 1900 in San Francisco were nearly derailed by politicians who claimed that quarantine procedures, including closing the city’s harbor to incoming ships, were an over-reaction that would impede commerce and tourism, and result in the collapse of San Francisco, and possibly California. The Surgeon General who intervened based on the scientific evidence was labeled a heretic and asked to resign.

In the 1980s, similar calls were made after former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop refused to back down from statements that HIV could be prevented. At the time, Dr. Carmona reminded the audience, senior elected officials were telling the American public that HIV was God’s way of punishing homosexuals.

In the 1990s, the tenure of Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders  was cut short after controversy erupted over a 1994 speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day that included remarks that masturbation was a normal part of sexuality and that abstinence-only education was “child abuse.”

During his own term under President George W. Bush, Dr. Carmona said, abstinence-only became the mantra of the administration, “based solely on ideological and theological concepts, and not science.

“Science had really demonstrated that abstinence alone was a failed proposition,” Dr. Carmona said. “Ironic, that an administration that was repeatedly caught up in the issue of abortion did not see the connection that comprehensive sex education was the best method to prevent STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and therefore abortions. As Surgeon General, this is a science-based position I have always held.”

Dr. Carmona, the only Surgeon General to be unanimously confirmed to the position in over 200 years, said the trauma of politics and its preventable deleterious outcomes are owned equally by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

He pointed out that over-the-counter sales of Plan B stalled under the Bush administration before gaining limited approval in December 2006, but fared no better seven years later under the more liberal Obama administration. In December 2011, HSS Secretary and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s decision to make the emergency contraceptive available, without prescription, to girls of all childbearing ages. While Sebelius cited a lack of conclusive data, Dr. Carmona said it was the administration’s desire to avoid a political battle in the face of an upcoming election.

“The immunization for preventing the continued viralness of political trauma is transparency, full disclosure, accountability for elected officials, a citizenry that is informed and participatory, coupled with civil discourse of complex issues,” he said.

–Patrice Wendling

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Filed under Family Medicine, Health Policy, health reform, IMNG, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Reform Caught in the Crossfire: The Policy & Practice Podcast

President Obama presented his 2012 budget to Congress last week, but the document received a chilly reception from Republicans and even some Democrats who said it did not go far enough to address rapidly growing entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The budget did have a sweetener for physicians: a proposal to completely eliminate the dreaded Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula within 10 years, at a cost of $370 billion.

Via Flickr user the sea the sea

Even as Congress began what is usually a months’ long debate over the next fiscal year’s budget, it was busily waging war over the current year’s funding.  As part of a continuing resolution to keep the government in operation, the House voted in a series of amendments to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. It also took huge swipes at dollars set aside to implement the Affordable Care Act.

To hear more about the budget battle and the latest attempt at tort reform on the Hill, take a listen to this week’s podcast:

And come back next week to hear how the Senate addresses the spending cuts delivered to its doorstep while it was on the President’s Day recess.

— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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Filed under Health Policy, health reform, IMNG, Podcast

Why Do You Hate Children?

From the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  

Protester's sign: "Why do you hate children?" Photo by Sherry Boschert.

 I encountered a weird, sad and somewhat frightening thing when covering the obstetricians’ and gynecologists’ big annual meeting this year — something I haven’t seen in my 20 years of medical news reporting, including many assignments to this very meeting.  

It took me awhile to recognize it. The first day, as I was trying to find the room number for a talk I wanted to cover, I noticed that there was a “mistake” in the program book. The room number for that particular session was missing. The next day, two more sessions that I wanted to cover had the same “problem” — no room number.  

So I asked for help from staff in the press office, and they seemed surprised to see these “errors” in the program too. But they knew who to call, and got me the room numbers, explaining that the omissions from the program were for “security” reasons.  

Then it hit me that the link between each of the “missing” sessions that I’d hoped to attend was that they all were about contraception. Not even abortion, mind you, just contraception.  

Throughout the meeting, protesters took up posts outside the convention center, haranguing attendees with shouts through bullhorns and enlarged anti-abortion signs and photos of fetuses, even one sign that accused these baby-loving physicians of hating children.  

I’ve seen that before, but never felt threatened. Perhaps I shouldn’t have felt so safe, considering that eight abortion providers have been murdered since 1993. Clearly, the meeting organizers were taking no chances. The fact that they felt they needed to protect contraception sessions is a sad sign of our violent times, and it occurred to me that the nervousness it generated in me must be something that many Ob.Gyns. live with every day.  

— Sherry Boschert (@sherryboschert on Twitter)
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Filed under Family Medicine, IMNG, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Uncategorized