From today’s NYT story about the political pressure placed on Dr. Carmona, W.’s first Surgeon General, and other Surgeon Generals:
Similarly, Dr. Carmona wanted to address the controversial topic of sexual education, he said. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives.
“However there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect,” he said.
Dr. Carmona said drafts of surgeon general reports on global health and prison health were still being debated by the administration. The global health report was never approved, Dr. Carmona said, because he refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration.
“The correctional health care report is pointing out the inadequacies of health care within our correctional health care system,” he said. “It would force the government on a course of action to improve that.”
Because the administration does not want to spend more money on prisoners’ health care, the report has been delayed, Dr. Carmona said.
“For us, the science was pretty easy,” he said. “These people go back into the community and take diseases with them.” He added, “This is not about the crime. It’s about protecting the public.”
Here’s what I love about this excerpt (and really, the whole article): The Bush administration’s bad acts are coming back to bite them in the ass. The ways in which they manipulated important issues that should be one step removed from Congress may not harm his electoral chances (since he’s a dead duck at this point), but will, I think, affect the GOP for years to come.
What’s also great: finally someone, somewhere in some way attached to the U.S. government (even if only formerly) is speaking out about and making sense of health care for the over 2.25 million men and women who are incarcerated in this country. Carmona’s right to frame prisoner health as a public health issue both for actual (it *is* a public health issue) and political (helps deflect attention from the fact that – gasp – we might actually do right by prisoners for once). HIV and other STDs spread rampantly in prisons. So do other infectious diseases. People then get out of prison and return to their communities. The lack of care they receive would be a human rights violation if we discussed such things more forcefully in this country; to frame it as an issue affecting the larger community is the smart way to get it heard now.
And of course, abstinence only is easy. It doesn’t work. It’s misogynist and heterosexist. Yet the Bush administration continuse to bend the science to fit its political and ideological goals. Carmona’s point about this surprised me not at all. The fact that someone was even thinking about any sort of prison reform in the Bush administration did.
But – as we all know too well at this point – speak out against GWB, lose your job.