Confirm Elders as surgeon general

Dick Williams

July 21, 1993|By Dick Williams

Atlanta -- DR. JOYCELYN Elders should be confirmed as U.S surgeon general.

But the fiery Arkansan doesn't deserve the job on merit or belief. She is entitled to confirmation because President Clinton picked her as an instrument of policy.

Barring some wrongdoing in her apparent double-dipping of paychecks, the job hould be hers and her performance should be part of Mr. Clinton's re-election record.

Enough of the "gotcha" confirmation hearings. After the borking of Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and scores of others, advise and consent has become attack and condemn.

Let her take office and let Congress keep a short leash on this woman who threatens to become Mr. Clinton's James Watt.

That said, it's s till useful to examine the policies Mr. Clinton would implement through his longtime friend. One in particular has the potential to kill (One other, abortion, already kills and Dr. Elders has told its opponents "to get over their love affair with the fetus").

Her nomination is the logical result of what another surgeon general referred to as "condom mania." Dr. Elders, who admits she can be flip, has seemed to advocate placement of condoms on every public school student's desk from kindergarten up.

The Washington Post describes the "Ozark Rubber Plant" on Dr. Elders' desk in Little Rock. It is made up of yellow circles of latex in a fake clay pot with the notation, "Blooms mostly at night. Blooms vary in length, depends on owner. Blooms may wilt in chilly atmosphere."

With that, she has moved from the flip to the sophomoric. Sadly, what she is prescribing for sophomores can be fatal. Call it condom roulette.

From Planned Parenthood to the British Medical Journal, studies show the standardized failure rate from condoms to be from 15 percent to 20 percent. The failure rate is slightly higher than for Russian roulette. Are we telling the facts to our children as we rush headlong from abstinence to lessons in how to place a condom on a cucumber?

For young, unmarried, minority women, the condom failure rate goes as high as 36.3 percent. That is attributed to the degree of preliminary sex play and inconsistent or incorrect use.

What makes the figures more frightening is that the failure rate is for pregnancy prevention, not the transmission of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. It passes far more easily than does sperm.

Surely, health officials and educators must communicate the need for safer sex. But abstinence has a place as well. Consider this analogy to the condom failure rate. If you were invited to go skydiving with five friends, then told one of the parachutes would fail, would anyone jump? Or get on the plane?

Similarly, Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, a member of the U.S. AIDS Commission, tells of a lecture to 800 sexologists in Germany. She put to them this situation: They are with the sexual partner of their dreams, but the partner has AIDS. Would they have sex, depending on a condom? Not one hand was raised.

Nor is the balloon a deterrent to pregnancy. Since the widespread availability of condoms and other methods in schools and homes, and since the expenditure of $2 billion on Title X family planning programs, births to unmarried teen-agers have increased more than 60 percent.

Let Dr. Elders punch in on the federal clock and let us note the record come 1996. With her nomination, condom roulette becomes a sanctioned sport.

Dick Williams writes for the Atlanta Journal.

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