Chief Executive Seeks Reproductive Rights Opponent to Head Federal Family Planning Agency


Undeterred by last week's thumpin', President Bush is already up to one of his old executive tricks: tapping anti-abortion, anti-sex ideologues to oversee federal programs, especially those related to women's health. As Ellen reported Wednesday, Bush has recently selected abstinence-only champion and anti-abortion crusader Dr. Eric Keroack to oversee funding for Title X – as in the U.S. Federal Family Planning Program, designed to deliver sexual and reproductive health information and services to low-income Americans. Bush has been flatlining funding for Title X since he took office, but why starve a federal program when you can use it to promote your ideological agenda instead? Here's where Dr. Keroack comes in.

When he's not stumping for abstinence, Dr. Keroack is the medical director of A Woman's Concern, a network of crisis pregnancy centers (remember them?) in Massachusetts. Check out the super-unbiased "options counseling" on their website if you'd like to get a sense of where they stand on the issues (abortion will ruin your life and may kill you, adoption is so fun you'll want to get pregnant again just so you can repeat the experience, and as for parenting on a shoestring, don't worry, I think I heard about this charity that sells used baby clothes for really cheap). When it comes to sex itself, it's probably best for self-respecting ladies to avoid it altogether.

Putting this guy in charge of the federal family planning program designed to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of low-income women? Sounds like a match made in heaven. Once he starts his new job (conveniently, there is no confirmation process), Dr. Keroack will join a pantheon of anti-abortion, anti-contraception, homophobic ideologues hand-picked by the Decider-in-Chief to staff federal agencies and oversee federal programs over the past few years. There's the anti-condom, anti-gay Tom Coburn, ex-co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (Coburn was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 based on a platform that favored the death penalty for abortion providers). There's Dr. Alma L. Golden, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, who claims that steering clear of sex before marriage is the only sure-fire way of avoiding "STDs, pregnancy, and a broken heart" and recommends flying lessons as a strategy for relieving sexual frustration. And who could forget Dr. W. David Hager, formerly of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, known for his refusal to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women, his belief that reading the Bible is the best way to address premenstrual syndrome, and his ex-wife's accusations of repeated sexual assault during their marriage? Sounds like Dr. Keroack will fit right in.

One more thing: given Dr. Keroack's professional preoccupation with the damaging lifelong effects of consensual pre- and extra-marital sex (i.e. using junk science to claim that the more sexual partners you have in your life, the less capable you are of loving others), I can't help but wonder if putting him in charge of Title X funding has something to do with the HHS's master plan to start promoting abstinence for grown-ups (I'm with The Onion on this one). Policy-wise, we're only steps away from telling low-income women that if they don't want any more babies, they should try crossing their legs for a change. I'm sure Dr. Keroack will make it sound much more science-y, but from where I'm sitting, that's the gist.

Editor's note: For more on this news, see SaveRoe, Salon Broadsheet, Rev. Haffner's blog, Feministing, Alternet and today's Washington Post.

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