My Uterus, Your Laws
I have been passionate about women's rights for ages. I was, after all, born a female and realized early on that a lot of folks, including women, were not on the side of women when it comes to rights, and espeically when it comes to reproductive rights.
We've heard a lot about cronyism in Bush's administration these days in light of the hurricane, Katrina. It doesn't stop there. Read what The Chron of Higher Ed says about the FDA; then read what Paul Krugman has to say about Bush's choices of apointees in All the President's Friends (reposted here in its entirety after the FDA piece since we're going to have to start paying for NYT "special features")
from The Chronicle of Higher Education:
A glance at the September 22 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine: Political interference at the FDA?
The Food and Drug Administration's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of an emergency contraceptive known as Plan B represents "a sad day for American women and for the FDA," three medical experts write in an essay in a forthcoming issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
In December 2003, an FDA advisory committee voted to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which is not the same as the controversial abortion pill known as RU-486. Five months later, however, the agency rejected the committee's recommendation, citing concerns about the effect that easy access to Plan B could have on teenage sexual activity. The FDA is now considering a proposal that would allow minors to buy the drug with a prescription, and adults with proof of age to buy it without one. According to the essay's authors -- Michael F. Greene, an associate editor of the journal; Jeffrey M. Drazen, the journal's editor in chief; and Alastair J.J. Wood, a professor at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine in Nashville -- the FDA's hesitation in this case stems from a failure to resist "political pressure to reflect a particular social policy or ideology" rather than a legitimate concern for the efficacy or safety of the drug.
Studies have shown, the authors say, that making the drug readily available would not increase the sexual activity among adolescents. Moreover, it is as safe for them as it is for adults, and even safer than other nonprescription drugs on the market -- like aspirin. And making women prove their age, the authors write, would be not only intimidating but "humiliating."
"American women should not have to explain their need for such a product in public, in front of their neighbors and friends, in such a painful, frightening, and vulnerable time," they write.
By failing to permit over-the-counter sales of the drug, the authors add, FDA leaders "have made a mockery of the process of evaluating scientific evidence, disillusioned many of the participating scientists both inside and outside the agency, squandered the public trust, and tarnished the agency's image. American women and the dedicated professionals at the FDA deserve better."
The essay, "A Sad Day for Science at the FDA," is available online at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/NEJMp058222v1.pdf
This article is spot on in my eyes.
I remember one day, when I was 16, my dad took me to the pharmacy to pick up my birth control prescription. Between my father and me, we were just picking up "a prescription," to this day neither of us admit that I'm not a virgin-I mean, because I am...ahem. There we encountered one of his lawyer-like colleagues. My father introduced me to his colleague, then the pharmacist's assistant said to me, "here's your birth control prescription." EXCUSE ME? Did you really just say that to me? I'm 16, with my FATHER, and just met his COLLEAGUE. What dumb smack did you do for breakfast?! I was mortified. I actually apologized to my father later, saying I hope I hadn't embarassed him. To which he cooly replied, "eh, Ed's a worldly kind of guy." Thanks Dad. No thanks to you, smack pharmacist assistant.
It's not only the unabashed mockery of women's rights to determine their reproductive future, it's the nonchalantness the assertion of "checking a woman's age" before she receives the prescription. Does an 80 year old man need a note from his 80 year old wife that she actually WANTS to continue fornicating with him before he gets his Viagra prescription? Neither should any impregnated woman have to be any age before she has access to birth control, the morning after pill or an abortion. If they have a right to an erection, I have a right to prevent and to terminate pregnancy.
If the FDA really wanted to stay away from politics they would approve drugs based on their scientific merits and their effectiveness. Not on whether they require the FDA to dabble in politics.
September 12, 2005
All the President's Friends
By PAUL KRUGMAN
The lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina revealed to everyone that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which earned universal praise during the Clinton years, is a shell of its former self. The hapless Michael Brown - who is no longer overseeing relief efforts but still heads the agency - has become a symbol of cronyism.
But what we really should be asking is whether FEMA's decline and fall is unique, or part of a larger pattern. What other government functions have been crippled by politicization, cronyism and/or the departure of experienced professionals? How many FEMA's are there?
Unfortunately, it's easy to find other agencies suffering from some version of the FEMA syndrome.
The first example won't surprise you: the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a key role to play in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but which has seen a major exodus of experienced officials over the past few years. In particular, senior officials have left in protest over what they say is the Bush administration's unwillingness to enforce environmental law.
Yesterday The Independent, the British newspaper, published an interview about the environmental aftermath of Katrina with Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst in the agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, whom one suspects is planning to join the exodus. "The budget has been cut," he said, "and inept political hacks have been put in key positions." That sounds familiar, and given what we've learned over the last two weeks there's no reason to doubt that characterization - or to disregard his warning of an environmental cover-up in progress.
What about the Food and Drug Administration? Serious questions have been raised about the agency's coziness with drug companies, and the agency's top official in charge of women's health issues resigned over the delay in approving Plan B, the morning-after pill, accusing the agency's head of overruling the professional staff on political grounds.
Then there's the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose Republican chairman hired a consultant to identify liberal bias in its programs. The consultant apparently considered any criticism of the administration a sign of liberalism, even if it came from conservatives.
You could say that these are all cases in which the Bush administration hasn't worried about degrading the quality of a government agency because it doesn't really believe in the agency's mission. But you can't say that about my other two examples.
Even a conservative government needs an effective Treasury Department. Yet Treasury, which had high prestige and morale during the Clinton years, has fallen from grace.
The public symbol of that fall is the fact that John Snow, who was obviously picked for his loyalty rather than his qualifications, is still Treasury secretary. Less obvious to the public is the hollowing out of the department's expertise. Many experienced staff members have left since 2000, and a number of key positions are either empty or filled only on an acting basis. "There is no policy," an economist who was leaving the department after 22 years told The Washington Post, back in 2002. "If there are no pipes, why do you need a plumber?" So the best and brightest have been leaving.
And finally, what about the department of Homeland Security itself? FEMA was neglected, some people say, because it was folded into a large agency that was focused on terrorist threats, not natural disasters. But what, exactly, is the department doing to protect us from terrorists?
In 2004 Reuters reported a "steady exodus" of counterterrorism officials, who believed that the war in Iraq had taken precedence over the real terrorist threat. Why, then, should we believe that Homeland Security is being well run?
Let's not forget that the administration's first choice to head the department was Bernard Kerik, a crony of Rudy Giuliani. And Mr. Kerik's nomination would have gone through if enterprising reporters hadn't turned up problems in his background that the F.B.I. somehow missed, just as it somehow didn't turn up the little problems in Michael Brown's résumé. How many lesser Keriks made it into other positions?
The point is that Katrina should serve as a wakeup call, not just about FEMA, but about the executive branch as a whole. Everything I know suggests that it's in a sorry state - that an administration which doesn't treat governing seriously has created two, three, many FEMA's.