Scroll To Top

CDC says it will
investigate changes to abstinence panel

CDC says it will
investigate changes to abstinence panel

Agency will investigate whether Republican lawmaker unduly influenced panel's makeup.

Following reports that pressure from a right-wing congressman led to the installation of abstinence proponents to a panel discussion held last week at the National STD Prevention Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced it will investigate the panel's formation, the federal health care policy Web site CQ HealthBeat reports.

The CDC-sponsored panel was slated to address in part the failures of abstinence-only education programs and was originally titled "Are Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?" The original panel included a Penn State University student who had planned to talk about the failures of abstinence-only education programs in reducing sexually transmitted disease rates. But Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, objected to the panel's makeup and focus and wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services to complain, calling the conference "controversial" and "anti-abstinence."

After Souder's complaints, the CDC removed the Penn State student from the panel, replacing her with two abstinence-only supporters. Neither of the new panelists went through the peer-review vetting process required of the original panel members, sources say. The abstinence supporters also reportedly had their travel expenses for the conference paid by the government, while the other panel members were required to pay their own way. Even the title of the panel discussion was changed after Souder's complaint, renamed "Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth."

U.S. representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, last week sent a letter to Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt, questioning whether the department improperly allowed Souder to change the makeup of the panel as well its name and its focus. Waxman also called on Leavitt to guarantee that all future conferences sponsored by HHS or the CDC allow decisions about panel sessions to be made by scientists and public health experts, not politicians.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency will investigate the formation of the panel and the changes made after Souder's complaints, adding that the agency believes the changes were made not because of Souder's influence but instead to "bring more balance" to the discussion, CQ HealthBeat reports.

However, Maryjo Oster, the Penn State student removed from the panel, told CQ HealthBeat that an e-mail she received from the CDC telling her she had been cut from the panel says the change was made "due to political pressures from above." Panel organizer Bruce Trigg said he received a phone call about the changes from a CDC official who said that "we can't have a one-sided criticism of a government program," CQ HealthBeat reports. "This is a level of interference in the public health community that I don't think we've seen before."

A spokesman for Souder says the congressman did not unduly influence or politicize the panel. "We would argue strongly what we've done is remove politics from this panel," Souder spokesman Martin Green told The Albuquerque Journal. (The Advocate)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff