Scott Tibbs
Published in Hoosier Review, 08-27-2002

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Looking for truth in all the wrong places

If you've been trying to get the real story from the news media regarding the incident in late April involving a group of cancer survivors who met with Congressman John Hostettler in his Washington, D.C. office, you're not looking in the right places.

Before we go into an analysis of this tempest in a teapot, one has to wonder how long a news story on a meeting between a Congressman and some people from outside of his district has to sit dormant before it becomes old news. A week? A month? How about nearly three months? Why did it take the Evansville Courier three months to report on such a meeting? And didn't the Courier see through this as a cheap political stunt given the fact that these women met with Brian Hartke's campaign manager before going to the Courier? (Hartke is the Democrat who is trying to unseat John Hostettler in this November's election.)

Other media accounts have not exactly been stellar pieces of investigative journalism, either. Indianapolis Star columnist Ruth Holladay chastised John Hostettler in an August 20 rant for his alleged behavior at the meeting, claiming that "it's wide-open political season, and Hostettler faces a tough contest against Democrat Bryan Hartke." Really? Most political observers have already conceded this race to Hostettler, who appears to be coasting to his fifth consecutive electoral victory. The Courier even admitted the same thing in an August 20 staff editorial. If Holladay has a scoop on this race nobody else knows about, she certainly delivered in her column. Unfortunately, it appears that Holladay simply assumed that, because of the newly-redrawn district's past reputation as the "Bloody Eighth", that it continues to be a difficult district to win for incumbents or challengers. Holladay needn't worry about John Hostettler's political future.

The facts of what really happened in the meeting have been obscured by the Courier's attempt to "get" Hostettler. The women claim that all Hostettler wanted to talk about was studies that show a link between breast cancer and abortion, and that he didn't listen to their other concerns. In reality, Hostettler did listen to what they had to say, and after they finished, Hostettler brought up the possible link between breast cancer and abortion.

The Courier wondered "why the congressman would persist in talking to this group about abortion, if none of them have had abortions." Apparently, logic isn't exactly a strong point of the Courier editorial board. Since this group met with him to discuss ways to treat breast cancer, it seems logical that they would be interested in dealing with possible causes of breast cancer in addition to treatments for it. Hostettler was clear in that meeting that he wasn't implying that any of those women had an abortion in the past. However, the women Hostettler met with refused to even consider this information. One wonders why a people who met with a Congressman to talk about breast cancer would refuse to discuss a possible cause of the disease.

A rational analysis of the situation would conclude that Hostettler's concern was well placed. The most effective way to fight cancer is to consider the possible causes of it and educate the public on how certain things might cause cancer in hopes of preventing it. Having been a cancer patient myself, I would have much rather prevented the cancer I was diagnosed with in 1997 than have recently completed the last appointment in my surveillance schedule. Debates over whether or not the abortion procedure itself should be legal or illegal need not be included in such a discussion. Dealing with the possible future health ramifications of abortion is a pro-woman stance, and should be carefully considered whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. It is downright silly to conclude that because Hostettler expressed concern about a possible cause of breast cancer that he was insensitive to what these women had gone through, as a August 24th editorial in the Bloomington Herald-Times concluded.

Not only did I have cancer myself, but a few years before I was born my mother had a cancer scare with a large benign tumor, a tumor that would have likely turned malignant and quickly killed her within months of the time it was removed had she not had surgery to get rid of it. As someone who has been directly touched by cancer, I commend John Hostettler for his concern on this issue.