In This Article

Introduction

I hate all bungling as I do sin, but particularly bungling in politics, which leads to the misery and ruin of many thousands and millions of people.

Goethe

Centuries ago the German philosopher Goethe remarked that because of its reach, government has the potential for great good or great harm. The legislative and executive branches of the current federal government increasingly have the potential to cause great harm. In February 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists, which includes many Nobel laureates, stated that no federal government during our lifetimes has shown such little respect -- indeed, disdain -- for science and public health:

When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions. This has been done by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees; by disbanding existing advisory committees; by censoring and suppressing reports by the government's own scientists; and by simply not seeking independent scientific advice. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front. Furthermore, in advocating policies that are not scientifically sound, the administration has sometimes misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies. [1]

Whether the issue is the Kyoto treaty about global warming, lead and mercury in the environment, or women's reproductive rights, this administration doggedly disregards science in the pursuit of ideological agendas that are unacceptable to most Americans. The unwarranted -- and, ultimately, unlawful -- intrusion of the Congress and the President into the personal affairs of Terry Schiavo, for example, gripped the nation's attention in March of this year. Regrettably, the pervasive and pernicious intrusion of the Congress and the President into the private lives of other American women has received scant attention. Here, I describe 6 examples that highlight federal policies with potential to harm women and present the published evidence refuting each of these policies. These policies are ideologically driven and are not only medically wrong but ethically wrong.

Editor's Note:
This commentary is adapted from the President's Program of the 53rd Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; May 9, 2005; San Francisco, California.

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