Sex, science, and the Bush Administration

Yes, the Bush Administration is holding up approval of a vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus because the Christian Right thinks threatening girls with cancer is a good way to keep them virgins.

I’m not surprised that the fanatics at Focus on the Family and other groups on the Christian-Right lunatic fringe oppose vaccines against sexually transmitted diseases, even fatal ones, because vaccination might encourage sexual activity. But I’m still a little bit surprised (even after six years of such nonsense) to learn that one of them is on the FDA vaccine advisory committee and is using that position to fight approval of a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus, which is causally associated with cervical cancer.

There are two political angles to this for the Democrats to ponder:

1. Is it possible that the combination of the South Dakota abortion law, the Plan B fiasco, and the HPV vaccine scandal can start to convince suburban “security moms” that reproductive freedom is really at risk if they keep voting Republican? How about a nice TV spot with a cervical cancer victim and a scientist in a white jacket explaining that the vaccine is ready but is being held up by bureaucrats and politicians?

2. Is it possible to organize scientists as an active political force? There are lots of them, and they’re paid decently. They have two important sets of interests at stake: a direct material interest in funding for research and education, and what Weber called an “ideal interest” in having decisions made on scientific grounds. But they’ve never been mobilized. Has someone started a Science PAC?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com