Candidates re-state their views on autism

After both John McCain and Barack Obama have recently made erroneous statements linking vaccines to autism, it appears that their campaigns have take steps to produce scientifically accurate positions on their websites. This is to be applauded – although we’ll wait and see what the candidates say if they are questioned about this again. Because I blogged on this recently, I thought it was worth posting this update showing the candidates’ responses to the criticism they received (deservedly so) from many quarters after their irresponsible remarks. I’m not entirely convinced that their websites represent their views – I’d rather hear it from their own mouths. Still, this is progress.

As of today, here is what both candidates’ websites say on the topic of autism:
Obama: at his website he has these two paragraphs describing the issue:
"More than one million Americans have autism, a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of autism have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind.
More than anything, autism remains a profound mystery with a broad spectrum of effects on autistic individuals, their families, loved ones, the community, and education and health care systems. Obama believes that the government and our communities should work together to provide a helping hand to autistic individuals and their families."
After John McCain's strongly worded but inaccurate statement on the issue (“there’s strong evidence that indicates it’s [the rise of autism] got to do with a preservative in vaccines,” he said), his campaign had an even bigger error to correct, so they made a special web page on autism, here. (This page was created sometime after his comments.) I'll quote the entire content verbatim here:
John McCain is very concerned about the rising incidence of autism among America's children and has continually supported research into its causes and treatment. He has heard countless stories about families' hardships obtaining a diagnosis for their children's autism and accessing quality medical treatment. He believes that federal research efforts should support broad approaches to understanding the factors that may play a role in the incidence of autism, including factors in our environment, for both prevention and treatment purposes.
John McCain was proud to lend his support to the Combating Autism Act of 2006, which he cosponsored, and worked to ensure its enactment. This law is helping to increase public awareness and screening of autism spectrum disorder, promote the use of evidence-based interventions, and create autism Centers of Excellence for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and Epidemiology. John McCain understands that despite the federal and scientific research efforts to date, the exact causes of autism are not yet known and greater research is needed to understand this disorder. That is why in November 2007, he joined with Senator Lieberman in requesting the leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal research into autism, to hold a hearing on federal research efforts regarding factors affecting incidence and treatment in order to help determine where research efforts can best be directed. As President, John McCain will work to advance federal research into autism, promote early screening, and identify better treatment options, while providing support for children with autism so that they may reach their full potential.
Both candidates have retreated to carefully worded statements supporting more research, and saying nothing about vaccines. Both websites say that the causes of autism are not yet known. I’d be much more impressed if they would come out and say explicitly that multiple scientific studies have failed to show any link between vaccines and autism – and even better yet, if they would say that they don’t want to pour more valuable research money into investigating a discredited hypothesis. But I expect that the carefully worded statements on their websites – designed not to offend anyone, including those who persist in their belief that vaccines cause autism – are the best we’re going to get. At least the websites don’t repeat the blunders the candidates themselves have made.

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