- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

Russian roulette with a venereal twist

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, makes a bold but risky claim: "Responsible sex education stresses abstinence but also includes age-appropriate information about health benefits of contraception and condoms. In this era of HIV/AIDS, it is imperative that all young people whether sexually active or abstinent have the necessary information to protect their health and their lives." ("Abstinence paper pregnant with shaky facts," Letters, yesterday). But are contraceptives reliable for teens?

The Alan Guttmacher Institute reported in 1998 that 48 percent of women who had had an unplanned birth said they had used contraceptives in the month of conception and that 58 percent of the women who had had abortions had been using contraceptives in the month they became pregnant.

In his column "Morning-after pill out of the shadows" (Commentary, March 26), Clarence Page confirmed an amazing statistic. He cited a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that nearly half of the 2.7 million unintended pregnancies each year result from contraceptive failure. Whatever happened to "safe sex?"

According to a report last year from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP): "Remaining abstinent is a tough challenge, but using contraception carefully and consistently is an equally tall order, because most contraceptive methods require both motivation and a constancy of attention and action that are difficult for even married adults to maintain, let alone teenagers." The NCPTP also reported that more than 93 percent of teens said they want "a strong message from society that they should abstain from sex until they are at least out of high school."

Even the federal government's National Institutes of Health (NIH) last July indicated that condoms cannot be considered effective against most venereal diseases, including syphilis, herpes, human papilloma virus and others. NIH did declare condoms "highly effective" in preventing gonorrhea, but in men only. On the subject of HIV, NIH said condoms were only 85 percent effective in preventing infection by the deadly virus, roughly the odds of surviving one try at Russian roulette.

With all this bad news, it is heartening that many teens are rejecting the false promises of contraceptive pushers. As The Times recently reported, the number of teen virgins has increased by 19 percent nationally since the federal government's abstinence programs began in the mid-1990s ("Reported number of teen virgins rises," Nation, July 22).


Silver Spring

Liability lottery needs national reform

The American Medical Association applauds President Bush's leadership in calling for action on national liability reform ("Bush: catalyst for Nevada insurance reform," Editorial, Wednesday). We are very pleased that Nevada just passed legislation to help stem the tide of the liability crisis in that state. However, Nevada is not the only state seeing the dire effects of skyrocketing medical liability insurance rates.

The AMA has found that the medical liability situation has reached crisis stage in 12 states, and more than 30 others are showing problem signs. Doctors are disappearing from communities on a regular basis in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia because of skyrocketing medical liability insurance premiums and an out-of-control legal system.

The AMA always has held that patients who have been injured through negligence should be compensated fairly. Unfortunately, the current liability system has failed patients but is extremely lucrative for trial lawyers. The United States has created a litigation lottery in which a select few and their lawyers receive astronomical awards and the rest of us pay higher costs for health care and suffer access problems because of it.

To help solve the problem, the AMA has endorsed H.R. 4600 and S. 2793, the Health Act. The Health Act is based on the successful California law known as MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975), which has proved fair to patients and effective at maintaining stability in the California medical liability insurance market. Because of MICRA reforms, including a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, California is not suffering from the medical liability insurance crisis hitting states without reforms.

In the end, all patients pay the spiraling costs generated by our nation's dysfunctional liability system. The AMA, Mr. Bush and many members of Congress agree that we need reform now, and the Health Act will go a long way toward bringing common sense back to our nation's liability system.



American Medical Association


Aquatic noise pollution

Michelle Malkin suggests, based on a clip she saw on CNN, that I want to "protect squid before sailors" ("Protecting squid before sailors," Commentary, Saturday). That's a cheap shot, and she should do more investigation on the Navy's proposed Low Frequency Active Sonar "bomb" before criticizing environmental activists and swallowing the Navy's propaganda.

Experimental LFA Sonar uses 18 giant speakers to blast a basso burst of noise as loud as standing next to a Saturn 5 rocket launch into ocean waters. The deafening sound energy is strong enough to destroy sensitive hearing tissue and cause ears to bleed in both humans and whales.

Dreamed up in the 1980s to detect lurking Soviet submarines, LFA Sonar is still classed as experimental because it has obvious military disadvantages: It pinpoints the presence of the surface ship towing the array ("low survivability" using the Navy's own ponderous term) and "paints" friendly U.S. subs to a listening enemy, exposing both to attack. It's not just a sonar bomb it's a dumb bomb in the age of cruise missiles.

The development of LFA Sonar has cost taxpayers more than $375 million to date. Why is the Bush administration trying to re-fight the Cold War against nonexistent phantom submarines when so many other important priorities go begging for funding?

The administration is wasting money giving dinosaurs in the Navy a blank check to build obsolete weapons systems and ignore environmental protection laws in the name of national security. Mrs. Malkin should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that I am less a patriot than she is when I criticize this government boondoggle.

Besides, squid need friends, too.


Assistant director

International Marine Mammal Project

Earth Island Institute

San Francisco

One last shot

In response to my Wednesday letter "Patriot raises unrealistic hopes," Gordon Prather writes that I confused the Patriot's rate of warhead kills during the Gulf war, which he admits may have been low, with the near perfect intercept rate of the Patriot missile, to which he intended to refer ("Patriot missiles are the last line of defense," Letters, yesterday).

In fact, the Army's own revised analysis of the Patriot's effectiveness also made this distinction. It concluded that the Patriot intercepted 40 percent of the Scuds launched over Israel but had confidence only that 25 percent of the warheads had been destroyed. Last time I checked, 40 percent was pretty far from "almost all."



Federation of American Scientists


The rising price of risky fun

High dives, roller coasters and the fast-food industry are the newest targets on the personal-injury lawyers' hit list ("Lawyers target theme parks," Editorial, Saturday ; "What's eating him?" Page 1, Saturday). Hoping to strike it rich in the lawsuit lottery, certain greedy personal-injury lawyers will target any industry with perceived deep pockets, and ultimately we all pay the price.

We all may soon lose the thrill of jumping off a high dive, the excitement of hurling through the air on a high-speed roller coaster and the convenience of the fast-food drive-through window because some personal-injury lawyers and plaintiffs want to fatten their bank accounts. We cannot allow them to choose what we will and will not enjoy in life.

Our civil justice system is out of control, and it's time we put an end to such abusive practices. If we don't, the only question we will have left to ask will be, "What's next?"



Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse


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