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Criticism sparks CDC sex panel changes

May 9, 2006 at 10:50 AM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 9 (UPI) -- A U.S. agency has dropped a speaker from a Jacksonville, Fla., sexual abstinence panel in reaction to conservative criticism, a report said Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control removed William Smith of the sexual rights group Sexuality Information and Education Council, who was to address a report by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., that criticized abstinence programs during a panel at the 2006 National STD Prevention Conference.

Smith, who told The Washington Post the decision was "shocking," was replaced with abstinence proponents Eric Walsh of Loma Linda University and Worth the Wait founder Patricia Sulak.

The CDC also changed the panel's name in response to an April 26 letter from U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who questioned the title and the presenter.

American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association President Jonathan Zenilman said he was "astounded" by the changes

"This is the first time I've seen the process of peer review subverted by pure politics," Smith told the Post.

A CDC spokeswoman said the changes resulted in more balanced views and there was no time to have Walsh and Sulak reviewed by peers.

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