|OCTOBER 18, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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| HEALTH CARE
The Anti-Family Planning Czar
On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a position that gives her oversight of federal family planning programs. Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.” Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council, which opposes family planning, and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. In her new role, Orr, who considers contraceptives part of the “culture of death,” will be responsible for “HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.” Given Orr’s record of opposition to comprehensive family planning services, women’s rights and reproductive health advocates are speaking out strongly against her appointment. “We are appalled,” said Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “While her resume suggests a commitment to child welfare and children, her professional credentials fail to demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive family planning services for all men and women in need.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) called her appointment “absurd.” Referring to her as “a virulently anti-family planning radical,” Planned Parenthood has circulated a petition opposing Orr. Unfortunately, though, appointing Orr as an “acting” secretary allows the administration to sidestep the need for Senate confirmation.
A RECORD AGAINST FAMILY PLANNING: In 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr. At the 2001 Conservative Political Action Conference, Orr cheered Bush’s endorsement of former President Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which required NGOs receiving federal funds to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.” In 2000, she authored a paper titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it, she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.” In 1999, Orr referred to child protection as “the most intrusive arm of social services.” Her former employer, the Family Research Council, which championed her appointment yesterday, equates contraception with abortion.
BUSH’S PATTERN OF RADICAL APPOINTMENTS: Orr is the latest in a long line of Bush administration appointments promoting “a conservative political agenda” that often “runs counter to well-established science.” In 2002, Bush appointed W. David Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist considered “a leading conservative Christian voice on women’s health and sexuality,” to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In his position, Hager “played a key role” in convincing the FDA to overrule the advisory committee’s recommendations and to initially reject allowing emergency contraception, known as Plan B, from being made available over the counter. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called that decision a “dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA.” In Nov. 2006, Bush appointed Eric Keroack to the same position Orr plans to fill. Before the appointment, Keroack was the medical director at A Woman’s Concern, a Christian pregnancy counseling group that “supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.” In March 2007, Keroack resigned from the position to defend himself from accusations of medical fraud.
CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON FAMILY PLANNING: These appointments are merely part of a larger conservative assault on family planning. In January, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Title X Family Planning Act, a bill to amend the Public Health Service Act, prohibiting family planning grants from being awarded to an entity that performs abortions, despite the fact that federal law already prohibits clinics from spending Title X money on abortion services. A similar restriction was attached to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, but the measure was soundly defeated. The House bill did include, however, an additional $28 million federal funding for abstinence-only education, which dictates discussing contraceptives only in terms of failure rates while often exaggerating them. The Bush administration recently launched a national ad campaign promoting abstinence-only education, despite a recent federal report concluded that such programs have had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.” In March, a new federal law “eliminated price breaks for many university student health centers, driving the cost of some birth-control products from less than $10 a month to $50 or more.”
An experimental malaria vaccine protected 65 percent of infants who received the treatment, “paving the way for a large clinical trial of what could be the first vaccine against the deadly disease.”
MAINE: Middle school becomes the first in Maine “to make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8.”
KANSAS: Anti-abortion county prosecutor files “dozens of felony and misdemeanor charges yesterday against a Planned Parenthood clinic.”
VIRGINIA: County supervisors “cut off certain services to illegal immigrants who are homeless, elderly or addicted to drugs.”
THINK PROGRESS: Days after claiming the America is less safe because of the Iraq war, President Bush’s counterterrorism chief suddenly resigns.
HUFF POLITICS: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales investigated subordinates who were likely to testify against him.
WHITE HOUSE WATCH: President Bush: I veto bills to “ensure that I am relevant.”
MATTHEW YGLESIAS: President Bush moves the goal post on “World War III” with Iran to “preventing Iran from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
“I will tell you, though, that a firm like Blackwater provides a valuable service. They protect people’s lives.”