With former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona’s testimonial on the censorship he experienced under the Bush administration released just last week, much needed attention has been drawn to the debate on who will become the next US Surgeon General. During a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Carmona described how important public health issues such as sexual education, emergency contraception, among other sensitive public health matter were often censored and edited to fit the political ideologies and agenda of the Bush administration.
Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried,’ Carmona said. ‘The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds, he added. Via Kaiser Network
Carmona’s term expired last summer, and President Bush nominated James Holsinger in May. Although Holsinger stated at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing last week that he is dedicated to science and would resign if the Bush administration officials pressured him to skew his recommendations for ideological reasons this new nomination does not signal positive change for many advocacy groups particularly those working on improving reproductive and LGBT rights.
Holsinger has shown indications of prejudice against gays and lesbians as well as no evidence of any plans to reform the current abstinence-only sex education policy among other public health issues, many of which affect Latinas’ reproductive rights directly. This lack of focus on our health concerns is enough for us to demand that our rights be acknowledged and catered to when making public health decisions. We need to ensure that the next US surgeon general represent and directly address our needs and concerns as a community. The uproar caused by Carmona and two other former surgeon generals’ testimonials have shed light on the issue, which is not a new criticism of the Bush Administration, that of holding politics over the basic human right to access scientific and correct information on health-related issues. Criticisms from all directions have begun to develop. As stated by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) , which announced its opposition to the nomination of Dr. James W. Holsinger,
Given the testimony of the former Surgeon General, we see even more clearly the urgent need to have a candidate for this position who will not sacrifice the public health for political considerations and who will not kowtow to the Bush administration’s ideological agenda,” continued Smith. “We need a Surgeon General who is committed to science, not anti-gay bigotry that clouds and distorts scientific judgment.
I think Julie F. Kay, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum, sums it up pretty well in her commentary, Advancing Women’s Rights on the Importance of Comprehensive Sexual Education:
Reforming the Office of Surgeon General is just one important step in the battle to prioritize science. As several surgeons generals’ testimony exposed, the public health cost of federal programs that fund sexual ignorance is too high. It’s time to start funding policies that promote comprehensive reproductive education essential to protecting girls and women’s health. It’s about sex, not politics.
It is imperative for us as Latina women to keep an even closer, more critical eye on this phenomenon seeing that issues concerning Latinas as well other women of color are rarely at the top of any political agenda. It is our right to request and expect for our government to provide the public with unbiased, scientific information that will reflect and manifest itself in effective policies that will improve the health of our communities.