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Posted Aug 30, 2012, 5:30 pm
I'm glad my mom preached the importance of education, because we've seen recently just how dangerous ignorance is.
I understand that health care and medicine are complicated—I went through years of school to learn it. But for an elected official to be completely clueless about basic human biology and back legislation that would prove harmful to public health is unforgivable.
When I saw Congressman Todd Akin's comments, I was stunned. To purport a woman's body is able to prevent pregnancy if a "legitimate rape" occurs shows a complete disregard for science and a willful ignorance that I fear infects our chronic politicians.
The science is clear: more than 32,000 pregnancies a year are the result of rape, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such ignorance from our politicians is scary, but what's truly terrifying are the politically-charged attempts to make laws based off this bogus science.
Congressman Jeff Flake was an original cosponsor of legislation that would have redefined "rape" – and consequently, access to health care – for victims of statutory rape and incest. That's partially why Joanne and CC Goldwater recently endorsed my campaign.
As Joanne said, "There's no doubt that my dad viewed himself as a conservative, but he put serving Arizona over serving any ideology. I don't see the same from Congressman Jeff Flake."
Arizona's women deserve the right to a wide range of medical care, including reproductive care. Beyond my personal beliefs though, these bills don't make any medical sense and don't achieve their stated goal of reducing abortions. As the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, I can definitively say that these bills and other attempts to legislate women's health would go beyond bad policy – they would be deleterious to the health of women and public health as a whole.
Any time you create barriers to health care the result is poorer health outcomes and higher costs for small businesses. If Congressmen Flake and Akin were serious about preventing abortions, the answer is opening up access to health care, not restricting it.
But making the prudent public health choice doesn't appear to be motivating these policies. Instead, the intent behind these statements and policies is a desire to politicize science for partisan benefit.
Health should never be politicized. We have real problems here in Arizona, and there are reasonable and politically possible solutions to them. And we have so much to fix with our health system that these debates over settled science are distracting us from the real problems.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats have done enough to address our spiraling health costs. Both parties have also failed to appropriately address health disparities and prevention – which are two of the largest contributors to our growing costs.
We need people in Washington who will solve problems, not create them. We've seen enough of the partisan bickering from our career politicians that lead nowhere.
Richard Carmona was U.S. surgeon general under President George W. Bush and is a current Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Arizona.