The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

blinded by science

More and more I'm thinking that there's just an amazing book to be written about the Bush administration's clearly conscious, intentional, and long-planned decision to reject empiricism and the scientific method (remember, you learned what that is back in sixth grade) as an unquestioned basis for policymaking. (There's an even more important book about the general retreat, in American society, from acceptance of science, but that's for a philosopher to write and I probably wouldn't understand it.) From climate change to AIDS prevention in Africa to Iraq to energy policy to, now, emergency contraception, the administration only accepts facts as the basis for policy, and for the arguments for policy decisions, when those facts gibe with certain a prioris elucidated at Grover Norquist's breakfast meetings or in the boardroom of the Family Research Council.

On Friday, the FDA announced that it would not make a decision on whether or not to allow women to purchase Plan B (an emergency contraceptive method that delays or prevents ovulation, interferes with fertilization, and may inhibit implantation) without a prescription. As the WASHINGTON POST reports:

"After 28 months of growing controversy, the Food and Drug Administration yesterday indefinitely postponed its decision on whether women should be allowed to buy the "morning-after pill" Plan B without a prescription -- despite earlier assurances that it would act by Thursday."

FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford put it this way:

"What we are saying today is that the Agency is unable at this time to reach a decision on the approvability of the application because of these unresolved regulatory and policy issues that relate to the application we were asked to evaluate."


"We are beginning a process that will address the regulatory questions today, but we believe we can only decide these issues in an open, public process. Through this process, all interested parties can weigh in on the questions of whether a drug may be both prescription and over the counter based on uses by different subpopulations and whether the prescription and over the counter versions of the drug may be marketed in a single package."

All right, fair enough. Who's against an "open, public process?" This'll show those liberals that the Bushies aren't as fanatically devoted to secrecy as everyone says.

But the plot sickens... um, thickens. We read last May 12 that all might not be in the light when it comes to the FDA's deliberations:

"Soon after the Food and Drug Administration overruled its advisory panel last year and rejected an application to make an emergency contraceptive more easily available, critics of the agency said it had ignored scientific evidence and yielded to pressure from social conservatives. The agency denied the charge, but an outspoken evangelical conservative doctor on the panel [W. David Hager] subsequently acknowledged in a previously unreported public sermon that he was asked to write a memo to the FDA commissioner soon after the panel voted 23 to 4 in favor of over-the-counter sales of the contraceptive, called Plan B. He said he believes his memo played a central role in the rejection of that recommendation."

The good Dr. Hager, who has taken it upon himself to make women's reproductive decisions for them, apparently also has a history of making decisions for women when it comes to, um, non-reproductive matters, as well. THE NATION reports that Hager's ex-wife, Linda Carruth Davis, "alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent." While she was sleeping. Because she has narcolepsy. Ow.

Anyway. So today, one of the FDA's people couldn't take the crap. Susan Wood, director of the FDA's Office of Women's Health—that's gotta be a great job these days—resigned today because of Crawford's stalling tactics. She stated that

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled. The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."


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