- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

The power of faith

Patricia Schwarz, responding to Sunday’s editorial “Faith is a key,” Editorial, Sunday July 13 worries without cause that the Bush administration has launched the faith-based program on a wobbly wing and a political prayer rather than empirical evidence (“Faith in accountability,” (Letters, yesterday).

She ignores the ample evidence cited in The Washington Times editorial, including a study by the American Psychological Association (adolescents perceived importance of religion found to lessen their drug use) that shows that adolescents who view religion as a meaningful part of their lives and as a way to cope with problems are half as likely to use marijuana as non-religious adolescents. The study attributed the lifesaving benefits of faith to the fact that “religiosity may influence a person’s attitudes and values, providing meaning and purpose in life.” He observed that religious faith also helps “create more healthy social networks than adolescents would have if they got involved with drugs to find social outlets.”

Another study, published by the University of Pennsylvania, found that “increasing individual religious commitment is significantly associated with decreasing use of illicit drugs.” The study documented “empirical support for …how the harmful environmental influence can be lessened by the individual’s religious commitment and related protective networks of social relations.” Even in drug-saturated neighborhoods, where peer pressure to abuse drugs can be overwhelming, a teen’s religious faith reduced such drug-driving influences by 27 percent for marijuana and by 33 percent for hard drugs.

Skeptics may be surprised to learn that an increasing body of data reveals that the benefits of personal faith in God actually reach far beyond delivery from substance abuse. Evidence such as that cited by Dr. Dale Matthews in his book “The Faith Factor,” shows that a sincere, active spiritual faith provides significant physical health benefits, protects against anxiety, decreases postoperative recovery time, helps patients cope with cancer and mitigates against frequent illness.

If the evidence shows that faith works wonders where sterile secularism has failed, why discriminate against programs that recognize the link between body and soul?

JONATHAN IMBODY

Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association

Washington

Market access for life

The Rev. Jerry Falwell’s July 8 Op-ed column, “Choose life, not drug importation,” attacked market access to prescription medications as inconsistent with the pro-life position. Allowing access to affordable prescription drugs would represent the most significant cost savings on medicine in the lifetimes of American senior citizens. Rev. Falwell’s ludicrous attack on our efforts for market access does nothing more than threaten seniors’ access to the medicines they desperately need.

For seven years, we have fought in Congress to make imported, FDA-approved prescription drugs available to seniors. The Congressional Budget Office estimates seniors will spend $1.8 trillion on prescription drugs over the next 10 years. Conservative estimates show allowing market access to American seniors could save them $630 billion over that same period.

But recently, Mr. Falwell attacked market access as nothing more than a vehicle to distribute abortion drugs, such as RU-486. This argument is patently false. As two staunchly pro-life members of Congress, we find this attack deeply disturbing. Many of the nation’s leading pro-life advocates, including Dr. Tom Coburn, a former representative, support market access as a means to allow seniors access to affordable prescription drugs.

Sadly, Mr. Falwell’s argument ignores the fact that American consumers are held captive in a market that forces them to pay as much as 10 times for the same prescription drugs sold in Canada and Europe.

We strongly support efforts to ban RU-486. Unfortunately, while this Food and Drug Administration-approved drug is available abroad, it is also manufactured in the United States. A policy permitting market access would not force the FDA to approve abortion-inducing drugs for over-the-counter sale in the United States. Nor would such a policy enable anyone in the United States to obtain abortion drugs without a prescription.

The potential problems Mr. Falwell cites (pill counterfeiting, unsafe packaging and tampering) are not unique to market access. They exist already in American markets. The solution is not an extension of uncontrolled black markets for prescription drugs, but regulation of the pills already flowing over our borders and already approved for use in the United States.

Pro-life advocates, including both of us, are working in Congress to end the practice of abortion and to promote adoption and healthy families.

Ironically, there is a pro-life issue here for our seniors, and Mr. Falwell is missing it by hastily criticizing market access. According to a study by the Kaiser Foundation, 29 percent of seniors say they have let prescriptions go unfilled because they couldn’t afford them. Affordable prescription drugs obtained through open markets will actually keep Americans healthier. Senior citizens who must cut pills in half, endure long trips over the border to patronize foreign pharmacies or even go without their medications will have an alternative to suffering.

Open markets are the best solution to skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs in America. Mr. Falwell’s extreme paranoia only serves to obscure this goal and to distance us from it.

REP. JO ANN EMERSON

REP. GIL GUTKNECHT

U.S. House

Washington

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