The TV commercial features images of women over 40, transforming into a large pink ribbon that fills the screen. “185,000! That’s the estimated number of women who will be told they have breast cancer this year,” a narrator intones. “Early detection is key to survival, which is why getting screened regularly is so important.” Then Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick appears, introduces himself, and says, “If you’re over 40, I urge you to call your doctor or health care provider to schedule your annual mammogram.”
What with the widespread controversy over a panel’s new report urging against annual mammograms for women between 40 and 50, and with the Obama Administration still officially calling for the annual screenings, was Minnick taking sides on what’s become a hot-button issue for women nationwide?
Not exactly - the commercial, which has been airing occasionally in Idaho, is a public service announcement that Minnick actually taped last May for the National Association of Broadcasters, long before the new report. Minnick also taped another spot at the same time about diabetes, and he recently taped one about H1N1 flu. Other members of Congress have done the same; the association provides the spots to local TV stations to run if they choose.
“They’re really apolitical, innocuous,” said John Foster, Minnick’s press secretary. “The whole point of a PSA is just a friendly reminder to people about an important issue, and this is clearly an important issue to a lot of women and to a lot of men whose spouses have family histories. It’s just a nice way to remind people and offer a public service.” Foster said Minnick stands by the ad, and he noted that despite the news about new recommendations, “The existing guidelines still stand.”