Humpty Dumpty Keroack

Gloria Feldt is a leading expert in women's rights, women's health, and politics from where the personal meets the political.

With W, up is down and down is sideways. We've grown inured to the duplicity, the sleight of hand, the wink while Halliburton profits as our sons and daughters die in Iraq, the ruthlessness with which the 1 percent get richer while the rest of us get a burgeoning national debt and fewer of us get health insurance.

So it's no surprise that the man talks piously about creating a culture of life while taking funding from lifesaving prevention programs like family planning and giving it to abstinence only preachers. This makes the U. S. the laughingstock of the world's public health organizations and in the end paradoxically increases disease, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and deaths.

Usually, however, this administration and its right wing buddies at least try to obfuscate their Orwellian redefinitions. Not so, however, in the president's latest and most arrogant "in-your-face, voters, ‘cause I'm-the-decider" action. I'm speaking about the appointment of Dr. Eric Keroack to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, DASPA for short.

Keroack, who opposes birth control, will be in charge of the nation's major family planning program, Title X of the Public Health Services Act, which provides contraceptive services to over 5 million American women each year through some 4500 public health facilities, preventing 1.3 million unintended pregnancies and hundreds of thousands of abortions, and saving taxpayers $3 on Medicaid pregnancy and newborn-related care for every dollar spent.

Yes, you read that right. A man who opposes birth control has been put in charge of the nation's major providers of birth control services. Never mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes family planning as one of "Ten Greatest Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century" for good reason.

Keroack – a non-board certified ob/gyn – at the time of his appointment was the medical director of A Woman's Concern, one of many chains of so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers whose purpose is to dissuade women from choosing abortion under any circumstances. The methods used by these centers range from showing women misleading photos of fetal development to giving them misinformation about the health risks of abortion. Whatever works, it seems, is their motto. In my own personal experience with these clinics, I've known one to lock women in a room to watch videos for so long that they missed their appointments at a nearby reproductive health center and another that advised women to pray to Jesus rather than to giving her the requested information about birth control. Praying is not a bad idea, but it has not been known to be a very effective contraceptive method.

A policy statement of A Woman's Concern says, "A Woman's Concern does not distribute, or encourage the use of, contraceptive drugs and devices…A Woman's Concern is persuaded that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading to human sexuality, and adverse to human health and happiness." The organization supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts. Keroack also serves on the advisory committee for the Abstinence Clearing House and has alleged that pre-marital sex changes the brain chemistry so that bonding to another person becomes difficult.

It's no surprise that the ideological right opposes abortion, but now it should be abundantly clear they also oppose birth control. Down is up. It's not that they don't understand birth control prevents abortion; it's that they don't want women to have birth control in the first place. Or the sexual and reproductive self-determination that goes with the ability to plan and space one's own childbearing.

Keroack's appointment does not require Congressional confirmation. But that doesn't mean his appointment should be allowed to stand. For further media reports and editorial comments: Washington Post, Boston Globe, Associated Press, United Press International, Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, U.S. News & World Report.

With enough public outcry, this Humpty Dumpty can and should fall down.

© Gloria Feldt 2006

Editor's note: This post also appeared on Common Dreams and Gloria Felt's blog.

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