Friday, August 8, 2008

An open letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

Secretary Leavitt,

First and foremost, let me state that you are an economist. You have no medical or scientific expertise; in fact, you only have a bachelor's degree in a completely unrelated field. You are unfit to take the helm of a position that requires you have comprehensive knowledge of American health. I am appalled that Bush appointed you, and I am appalled that you accepted his appointment (although the last Democratic appointee, Donna Shalala, a former chancellor of my university, was about as qualified as you were, and I'm not too happy that the last three HHS secretaries were political scientists).

Secondly, the text of the memo clearly states that you will redefine abortion as "Any of the various procedures -- including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action -- that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.". That is unequivocally a statement that tries to redefine contraception as abortion. "No comment" is NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER, MR. SECRETARY. You have a duty to the nation, and you cannot shirk it. You owe us the truth.

Thirdly, you are clearly not listening to your scientific advisors here; you would do well to solicit the opinion of Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the director of the NIH. Pregnancies are not viable until they implant in the uterine wall amid the endometrium. If a fertilized egg is not implanted, it remains a fertilized egg and does not grow. Two medical dictionaries, a Zogby poll, and a bunch of conservatives' religious beliefs do not change scientific fact, besides the fact that the Zogby poll and a bunch of conservatives' religious beliefs are unscientific and probably come from a bunch of people who don't know squat about human reproduction. We who are in the scientific community and who are in the know about human reproduction think, bluntly, that your pandering to unscientific individuals is about the most disingenuous thing you can do in your position. As I said on your blog, by your logic, I have an abortion every month when I menstruate, and by your logic, every man who masturbates has fifteen million abortions every time he has a wank.

Fourth, you would do well to listen to some of the stories of women who have had to deal with birth control, and consider not only the numerous non-contraceptive reasons why people use contraception, but also the contraceptive reasons, and ESPECIALLY listen to women's reasons for having abortions. There are women who are glad they had them; every child should be wanted. Seeing as you are a man, you have never had to be in this position. Listen to those who have had to be in this position.

You are the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Leavitt, not a Bush toady. Do your job.

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