Sunday, January 12, 2003

War on common sense

One of the things that turns political debates nasty is when people start ascribing motives to others who they admit they don't understand. Glenn Reynolds links to an incandescent example from where else, the New York Times.
Over the last few years conservative groups in President Bush's support base have declared war on condoms, in a campaign that is downright weird — but that, if successful, could lead to millions of deaths from AIDS around the world.
Gosh, why do you suppose he mentioned President Bush's support base?

Now check out these quotes from the article. Radio spots in Texas:
"Condoms will not protect people from many sexually transmitted diseases."
Human Rights Watch:
"We don't discuss condom use, except to say that condoms don't work."
The scientific consensus is simple: Condoms are far from perfect, but they greatly reduce the risk of H.I.V. and of gonorrhea for men, and they probably also reduce the risk of other sexual infections — but more studies are needed to prove the case definitively.
Did you catch that? They "greatly reduce" risk of HIV and the clap, and they "probably" reduce risk of other STD's, but "more studies are needed". That's funny - where's the "precautionary principle" when you need it? Why can't we warn of high condom failure rates in a country where you can get sued for not warning people not to put hot coffee in their crotches?

Here's Kristof again:
I'm all for abstinence education, and there is some evidence that promoting abstinence helps delay and reduce sexual contacts both in the U.S. and abroad. But young people have been busily fornicating ever since sex was invented, in 1963 (as the poet Philip Larkin calculated), and disparaging condoms is far more likely to discourage their use than to discourage sex. The upshot will be more gonorrhea and AIDS among young Americans — and, abroad, many more people dying young.
Mr. Kristof offers no science to back his statement. But he's asking us to believe something like the following: Kids are responsible enough to deal with something as annoying as a condom at an age when some of them won't even have time to take their pants off, but at the same time they're irresponsible enough to abandon what protection a condom provides from disease and pregnancy for a few moments' tickle in their crotch and some bragging rights. To use Glenn Reynolds' analogy, it's as if we refused to tell people that they could be killed in a car wreck despite using seatbelts for fear they'd stop using seatbelts, so we should act as if seatbelts solve all the problems no matter how recklessly you drive.

So far Kristof has made it most of the way up Mount Asinine, but he hasn't summited yet:
Then there was the Condom Caper on the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control. A fact sheet on condoms was removed in July 2001 and, eventually, replaced by one that emphasized that they may not work.

"The Bush administration position basically condemns people to death by H.I.V./AIDS," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. "And we're talking about tens of millions of people."
Exactly how does telling people that condoms might not work (which Kristof himself acknowledges as true) "condemn people to death by H.I.V./AIDS"? Why is it that we can expect people to pay taxes, obey the law, work for a living, and eat right, and feel free to condemn or even imprison them for failures, but we can't expect them to control their sex lives?

Refusing to pay for condoms abroad isn't the same as "discouraging their use". All those bleeding hearts could have bought a lot of rubbers for the money they spent on donations to the Democratic Party over the last few election cycles. Their choice is clear - they'd rather buy influence than save lives abroad despite their stated convictions. So who should be condemned?

"War on condoms"! No, it's just that Kristof has a problem with a method that is 100% effective against pregnancy and disease, costs no money, and is available anywhere all the time on demand. His article should be taken about as seriously as this

Here's more from MedPundit and Justin Katz.

No comments: