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Monday, December 09, 2019

Science

Dr. Anthony Fauci

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Good-bye, Dr. Fauci. You did your job while under attack from the worst sort of people.

You devoted more than 50 years to public health. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, you led us through HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID, respiratory syncytial virus and, every year, seasonal flu.

You say your "proudest moment" was your work with President George W. Bush on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR is credited with having saved 20 million lives. (START ITAL)Twenty million lives.

That doesn't include the lives saved from your work in the late '70s and early '80s developing treatments for inflammatory and autoimmune-related diseases. Several that would have previously been death sentences are now in high remission.

And there was, of course, your guidance on dealing with COVID-19. Many who followed your advice during the initial outbreak with hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing are alive because of it. Many who mocked you are not.

When the COVID vaccine came along, you never tired of urging Americans to obtain it. Over a million Americans died from COVID, but an estimated 234,000 of those deaths could have been prevented if everyone had gotten their shots.

We wonder how many people died because Donald Trump and assorted lowlifes downplayed the disease, peddled phony cures and cast doubts on the vaccine. They may have had fun owning the libs, but they were also killing many of their followers. Why was never clear.

The sickest abuse came from the senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, who perversely accused you of being responsible for millions of deaths. When you told a Senate hearing that this claim led to threats against you and your family, Paul looked back blankly.

Brooklyn tough, you never backed down. That you served seven presidents from both parties didn't impress the jerks. You let the barrage of boobery splatter all around you as you went about your mission.

But let's give a respectful hearing to the argument that your recommendations caused harm by hurting the economy. Certainly, the social isolation tied to the shutdowns created its own problems.

I, for one, thought that once a vaccine became widely available, many places stayed closed longer than necessary. Schools, especially, could have resumed in-person learning sooner than they did.

But these decisions were made mostly by state and local governments, not you. Meanwhile, fear of a disease that spread easily, clogged emergency rooms with dying patients and left many of those afflicted with long-time illness was itself enough to empty stores, theaters and libraries.

Your harshest critics clearly didn't share the value you place on life. You said your saddest period was back in the '80s when you were treating people with HIV/AIDS and there was no effective therapy.

"We were taking care of very sick, mostly young gay men who were healthy," you said in a recent interview. "You see every single one of them dying or going to die soon." All medicine could offer back then was comfort.

Approaching your 82nd birthday and about to leave public service, you still can't take your eyes off current and new threats.

"We can do things that are very important to mitigate against at least two of them," you said. That would be COVID and seasonal flu. As we know, there are vaccines for both of them.

We know your first name is Anthony, but you can't blame us for thinking it's "Doctor." And, by the way, you looked great on your farewell interviews.

When the documentaries, movies and operas are written about the COVID era, you will be portrayed as the hero and those who attacked you as creeps. Where should we put your monument?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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Supreme Court

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Such is the state of the Republican Party that only eight of its 210 House members voted yes on a bill to protect the right to contraceptives. We're talking birth control.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, denounced the bill as a "Trojan Horse for more abortions."

Start with the obvious. Contraceptives prevent the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions. Also, the number of abortions in this country has steadily declined over the last 40 years, the reason being increased contraceptive use.

Other Republicans complained that Democrats pushed the birth control protection bill just for show. After all, no state currently bans contraceptives. One might agree, except that Justice Clarence Thomas just wrote that the thinking behind the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade could apply to contraceptives as well.

Some have opposed Roe on the grounds that Congress, not the courts, should have enshrined any national right to abortion. Well, that's the approach just taken by the Democrat-controlled House concerning contraceptives. It passed a law guaranteeing a right to birth control.


Since Republicans are going down that path, one must ask, "What about embryos?" As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began at fertilization. An embryo is a fertilized egg.

Fertility clinics discard thousands upon thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That's because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves collecting 10 or more eggs with only one or two being implanted in the mother. Many countries actually require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period.

Shouldn't states declaring embryos to be people require the clinics to preserve all unused embryos or close down? The cost of storing frozen embryos can exceed $1,000 a year.

In the opinion overturning Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys "potential life" and the life of an "unborn human being." Foes of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and eggs are potential life, even before they meet.

Then there is embryonic stem cell research, which holds great promise for defeating such medical scourges as Alzheimer's and heart disease. The procedures require destroying embryos (many of them donated by IVF patients who didn't need them).

Thanks to a new embryonic stem cell-derived therapy, a man ravaged by formerly incurable Type 1 diabetes seems to have been cured of this terrible condition. The overjoyed 57-year-old patient, Brian Shelton of Ohio, exclaimed: "This is a whole new life. It's like a miracle."

One of the developers was Dr. Doug Melton. In 2001, Melton had to cut his lab's ties to Harvard University after President George W. Bush barred federal funding for research involving the destruction of embryos. Fortunately for humankind, private money was found to help Melton establish a separate lab.

By the way, Bush never did anything about the IVF clinics that were discarding unused embryos. But in 2005, he put on a bizarre show at one of them where he said, "There is no such thing as a spare embryo." He noted that 81 embryos had already been "adopted" under a special program run by a pro-life group.

Well, that left only about 399,982 unused embryos then stored at IVF clinics — embryos that could have helped lead to cures for deadly diseases. We can only wonder how many lives might have been saved had medical research not been hobbled over two decades by an obsession over embryos that were getting thrown out anyway.

As the midterms approach, voters might ask themselves whether they want to empower a Republican Party that thinks like this — that couldn't get even one out of 27 members to support something as basic as birth control.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.