- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Public health

Jacob Sullum (“In the name of public health,” Commentary, Tuesday) pointed to a distortion of fact by the public health community and termed public health officials “nannies.” I wonder what he would say about the following unfolding scenario:

On Dec. 16, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing to seek advice about Barr Laboratories’ request to make Plan B (two tablets of levonorgestrel of 0.75 mg), the morning-after pill, available across the counter nationwide. It already is available without a prescription in five states, but requires counseling by the pharmacist. The FDA is to rule on the request, which was presented as having the potential to reduce abortions by half.

During the hearing, Dr. Carole Ben-Maimon, the proponent of the change, acknowledged that a woman’s “window of fertility” is six days per cycle. Yet Barr and Woman’s Capital Corp. — which will buy and market the product — plan to offer the packet of two pills, which contain as much levonorgestrel as 15 to 20 ordinary birth control pills, for $30 — the price of a month’s supply of ordinary pills. They also offer them for any “unprotected act” of intercourse, when the need would be for just 25 percent of the cycle, thus planning a huge profit.

Never mind that the United Kingdom and New Zealand found that the rate of ectopic pregnancies was four times higher with levonorgestrel, which slows the movement of the tube. If the pills are taken after conception but before implantation, the embryo may have to implant in the tube, with known risks of hemorrhage to the women.

Never mind that the rate of abortions has not come down in the states where Plan B has been available for the past several years, or that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, has risen 20 percent since word of the availability of the morning-after pill has spread. And never teach women to recognize the mucus flow that reliably marks the beginning of the window of fertility, so they would be able to choose if and/or when to have sex, and if and/or when there would be even a theoretical need for the morning-after pill. And never hint at the ease with which a man who coerced a woman into sex also could follow that act with making her swallow two pills, thus obviating the need for future child support.

No, let’s rip off the public, getting them to buy a product for which there is no need, in a worst-case scenario, 75 percent of the time, at a hugely inflated price.

DR. HANNA KLAUS

Bethesda

The Anglican church and homosexual ‘marriage

In Wednesday’s Page One story “Anglican bishop shuts down church,” Julia Duin wrote: “The local Anglican bishop [of Vancouver, British Columbia] … closed a small church … over its opposition to the church’s approval of homosexual ‘marriages.’” This is quite untrue. The church closed because its funding was withdrawn by the diocese, and this was done because the priest in charge refused to acknowledge the authority of the bishop (or, for that matter, to reply to the bishop’s attempts to communicate with him).

No priest or congregation in this diocese has been disciplined for refusing to bless same-sex relationships. (The diocese, incidentally, never uses the word “marriage” in referring to this issue.) Dissident priests who disagree with the majority opinion in the diocese would like to think that that will happen, but they have no reason for making that claim. In fact, the Most Rev. Michael Ingham, the bishop of New Westminster, has taken all possible steps to reconcile the dissidents to the majority of Anglicans in his diocese. His behavior in this respect has been exemplary.

The issue clearly arouses deeply felt opinions on both sides, but talk of “excommunication” is nonsense. Certainly, no one who supports the bishop wishes to see anyone excommunicated. That would be completely contrary to the inclusive approach to membership of the church (for homosexuals, as for all people) that led to the current events in the first place.

LESLIE BUCK

Vancouver, British Columbia

Compassion and medical marijuana

Regarding “Bush says help to Iran is no thaw” (Page 1, Friday): President Bush said easing restrictions to help Iranians in the wake of the recent earthquake there showed that the American people have “great compassion for human suffering.”

But if easing restrictions to help Iranians demonstrates compassion, where is the Bush administration’s compassion for sick and dying Americans who have exhausted all legal treatments and have turned to marijuana, still illegal under federal law even for medical use, to ease their suffering?

Compassion should begin at home, and while some polls have found that more than 80 percent of the American public supports legalizing medical marijuana, federal officials have continued to target patients and providers. The Bush administration recently was handed an opportunity to display compassion:The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal laws prohibiting marijuana possession and cultivation are unconstitutional in cases where patients are using marijuana with a doctor’s note and when the marijuana is not sold and does not cross state lines. Rather than appeal the ruling, as the administration is expected to do, allowing it to stand would be a good way to show that Mr. Bush has compassion for suffering Americans as well.

GARY STORCK

Madison, Wis.

Spurrier gets a bad rap

I am a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan and have enjoyed watching the Cowboys beat the Redskins more times than not these past few years. That said, I took my hat off to the Redskins and their fans years ago when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry. The Redskins showed more respect for Landry’s demise than the Cowboys organization did at that time.

I now think that perhaps we Cowboys fans may have to return the favor. I was appalled at the treatment of Steve Spurrier by two well-respected sports journalists writing in The Washington Times, Tom Knott (“Zombie Ball Coach,” Sports, Tuesday) and Dan Daly (“Wasn’t difficult to read Spurrier,” Sports,Thursday).Coach Spurrier might not have had such a hot record, and resigning might have been the better part of valor, but he deserved better commentary than was given. Knocking down a man when he already is down is not exactly good sportsmanship.

Cowboys fans, let’s raise our blue-and-white caps with the star in the center and give three cheers for Steve Spurrier.

J.R. COLEMAN

Arlington

The numbers game

Having majored in math in college and done voluntary work tutoring it for many years, I read with interest Thursday’s article “New calculators add to old debate” (Culture). In all the years I have tutored, I may have had one student seek my help in learning how to input data into a calculator. My students desired instead to understand which formulas to apply to solve a problem. No doubt, calculators serve a useful purpose, but they should not be a crutch.

More important, however, is that math is a subject that aids indevelopingathought process by which to solve problems logically. While I tell many of my students that learning formulas, such as the quadratic formula, probably will not be very useful in their adult life, developing the “formula” of logical deductive reasoning based upon pertinent facts to resolve many of life’s problems is helpful. Solving with new calculators won’t teach that; solving with pencils will.

CARMEN D. VILLANI JR.

Chantilly

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