RealTime: Contraception Foe to Head Population Affairs

Yesterday, Dr. Susan Orr, formerly Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families, was appointed the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS). The Office of Population Affairs advises the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Health on "a wide range of reproductive health topics, including adolescent pregnancy, family planning, and sterilization, as well as other population issues," says the OPHS website. Sounds like you might want to count contraception as one of your areas of expertise in that post, right? Not Dr. Orr! In 2001, when President Bush proposed eliminating the requirement that federal employees' health insurance offer a range of options for birth control coverage, Dr. Orr, then the senior director for marriage and families at the Family Research Council, told the Washington Post, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."

Clearly, Dr. Orr's definition of "medical necessity" does not recognize that women in the world over consider controlling their bodies and the number and spacing of their children foundational to their well-being. If that's not a medical necessity, what is?

Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement that her organization was "appalled" at Orr's appointment and observed that "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."

Isn't there more good news about Dr. Orr? Sure there is: in 2001, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, she "cheered" Bush's Mexico City Policy, noting that his refusal to provide funding to international family planning organizations who wouldn't pledge not to provide abortion or even discuss abortion as an option, regardless of local law, amounted to a tacit acknowledgment that he was pro-life "in his heart."

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    The Title X family planning program, which Susan Orr will now be overseeing, is a critical part of our country’s health care safety net for low-income women, providing contraceptive care and other preventive health services to more than 5 million women each year. We’ll be watching to see what happens next with this appointment…

    Steph Sterling here at the National Women’s Law Center has more details on this in her blog post from yesterday.

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    at this administration’s stubborn insistence on doing the wrong thing for women.