Antivaccine activists try to flog Rep. Dan Burton’s fear mongering about an “autism epidemic”

Oh, goody.

Remember last week, when I took note of how organized quackery’s best friend in Congress, not to mention a shining example of crank magnetism, Representative Dan Burton of Indiana, was taking the opportunity of his having announced that he would not be running for reelection this year to write a typically brain dead post on his Congressional blog about the “autism epidemic”? In that post, Burton bought into the mythology of the “autism epidemic” and defended his previous efforts to root out that dreaded mercury in vaccines (and, of course, vaccines themselves) as the cause of this “autism epidemic.”

And now, the antivaccine movement is taking advantage of this to paint autism as a “national emergency” and to demand hearings that would be a total waste of time and allow antivaccinationists to promote their agenda to a national audience. There’s a press release from the Autism Action Network that I got, and, not surprisingly, the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism is getting in on the action by reposting it:

Rep. Dan Burton Calls for Autism Hearings – Take Action!

Please Take Action to Support his Appeal

Representative Dan Burton recently published the letter below in The Hill calling for Congressional hearings into the causes of autism (including mercury and vaccines), the inadequacy of the Federal government’s response to the autism epidemic, and the failure of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to assure a safe vaccine supply and provide justice to those injured by vaccines. No hearings by Congress have been held on these topics since those chaired by Burton himself more than 10 years ago. Burton is one of the few elected officials in the United States to have the courage and intellectual honesty to confront the autism epidemic and the many, many questions raised by a honest review of the facts. But he needs your help.

What You Can Do:

1) Please click on Take Action to send an email to your representative asking for support of Burton’s call for hearings, and to support Burton’s newly introduced bill, “White House Conference on Autism Act of 2011” (H.R. 3489), calling for a conference lead by the Whitehouse on the autism epidemic.

2) Congressman Burton is no longer the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, though he remains an active member. He is requesting that Chairman Darrell Issa hold hearings on the VICP. However, given all the competing interests in Washington, we need to support Congressman Burton’s leadership by showing broad community support for these hearings. We need every single one of you to go to these Facebook pages, the first is for the Committee, the second is for the Democratic Party members of the Committee, and express your support for hearings and a White House Conference on Autism.

http://www.facebook.com/Oversight

http://www.facebook.com/oversightdems

We specifically want the following:

The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee should initiate promised hearings as soon as possible on the failure of federal health agencies to appropriately respond to the autism epidemic. It has been ten years since this Committee examined the role of the federal authorities in the autism epidemic. We can think of no other instance where any comparable epidemic has gone on for so long without Congressional oversight.

3) Please share this email with friends and family and please post to Facebook and other social networks. And if you support the work of the Autism Action Network Please consider making a donation at www.autismactionnetwork.org/donation.org.

The original letter in the The Hill can be read here:

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/223265-it-is-time-to-re-engage-on-the-autism-epidemic

What follows after this is a repost of Burton’s nonsensical stealth antivaccine (actually not-so-stealth) bit of antivaccine self-justification, followed by suggested text:

I support Congressman Dan Burton’s call for hearings by the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the failure of federal health agencies to appropriately respond to the autism epidemic. It has been ten years since this Committee examined the role of the federal authorities in the autism epidemic. We can think of no other instance where any comparable epidemic has gone on for so long without Congressional oversight.

I further support Rep. Burton’s calls for hearings into the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This was supposed to be a program that assured safe vaccines and provided quick and generous compensation for victims of vaccine injury. It no longer achieves any of those goals, but does provide the vaccine injury with complete immunity from the injuries caused by its products.

And lastly I ask for your support and co-sponsorship of H.R. 3489, the “White House Conference on Autism Act of 2011”. It would require the President of the United States to convene, no later than December 31, 2012, a White House Conference on Autism charged with developing policy recommendations on ways to address the autism epidemic and its impact on Americans.

I have a better idea. How about those who support science-based medicine and reject antivaccine pseudoscience write e-mails suggesting that the House of Representatives support science-based autism research and not waste its time giving antivaccine groups like the Autism Action Network a platform from which they can grandstand? Let Rep. Burton be given the opportunity that he so richly deserves to retire in ignominious obscurity as the crank he is, rather than giving him one last chance to poison Congress with his antivaccine views before he slithers back home from the U.S. House of Representatives. It would be a fitting end indeed to the legislative career of organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.

Autism, how to treat it, and how to help parents with children who have autism are all very important issues, but they are not a “national emergency.” Painting autism as an “epidemic” and a “national emergency” serves only the purposes of the antivaccine movement to try to convince you that “environmental influences”–cough, cough…vaccines!–are the cause of autism when the science is about as close to certain as science can be that they aren’t.