Apparently the Straight Talk Express hit a serious bump in the road as Senator McCain told reporters today "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue" in reference to insurance companies covering Viagra but not birth control. This is not the first time Senator McCain has struggled with his position on several key public health issues.
American women and families deserve to know how Senator McCain feels on matters such as public funding for contraception, abstinence-only education, and the effectiveness of condom use in preventing sexually transmitted disease. When he was asked if "condoms stop sexually transmitted disease" he responded "I've never gotten into these issues or thought much about them."
As a public health nurse who has spent the better part of my career working on these issues I thought I'd share a few facts with Senator McCain in the hopes it will help him clarify his position on these important questions of public health policy.
First, abstinence-only education, as funded by the Bush Administration, is not based on science. According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office these programs, which you seemed to say you wanted to continue, often contain incorrect information about reproductive health and contraceptives and has proven to be largely ineffective in reducing teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Based on your stated repugnance for wasteful government spending, I would imagine you would want to rethink your support for this federally funded boondoggle. I would encourage that change of heart.
Second, I would also ask you to reconsider your opposition to public funding for contraception in Africa to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. has made an enormous financial commitment to reducing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and encouraging economic and democratic development throughout the continent. Restricting funding for contraception severely undermines the effectiveness of our efforts to combat this deadly disease.
Finally, I would note that yes, condoms are an effective tool in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted disease. If used properly, condoms can greatly prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, encouraging comprehensive, scientifically based sex education is an important part of ensuring that condoms are properly used.
I hope you find all this information helpful
Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) spent 20 years working as a public health nurse in Santa Barbara public schools. She currently serves as the Chair of the Democratic Women's Working Group and the Vice-Chair of Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health.