Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WSJ: Contraception Foe Named to Contraception Post

I've lost my capacity to be surprised by unqualified, inappropriate Bush appointees. Quite clearly, the appointment is designed to torpedo the office.

from the
Washington Wire - WSJ.com : Contraception Foe Named to Contraception Post

by Laura Meckler

The Department of Health and Human Services appointed Susan Orr — who has spoken out against contraception — to a post responsible for U.S. contraception programs.

Orr, who will be acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, has been directing child welfare programs in another branch of HHS. Prior to joining the Bush administration, Orr was senior director for marriage and family at the Family Research Council, a conservative group that favors abstinence-only education and opposes federal money for contraception.

In 2001, she was quoted in the Washington Post favoring a Bush administration plan to drop a requirement that health insurance plans for federal employees cover a broad range of birth control.

“We’re quite pleased because fertility is not a disease,” she said at the time. “It’s not a medical necessity that you have it.”

Reached by email, Orr referred questions to the Office of Public Affairs, which said she was simply supporting President Bush’s policy. “As she said then, the policy allows freedom of conscience and freedom of choice. Practically speaking, workers should be able to choose what kind of coverage matters to them,” said a statement from HHS spokesman Kevin Schweers.

“She wouldn’t have accepted the job of running the Office of Population Affairs if she couldn’t support the Administration’s positions. This Administration has worked to ensure grantees provide safe and effective products and services.”

A coalition of family planning providers called attention to Orr’s appointment and denounced it. “We are appalled,” Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement. “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.”

The administration’s last pick for that office drew similar fire. Eric Keroack was criticized by family planning advocates who objected to his earlier work as medical director of a Christian pregnancy counseling organization that opposed distribution of contraceptives. He resigned in March to deal with an allegation by the Massachusetts Medicaid program against his private practice.

In an email announcing the Orr appointment, Anand K. Parekh, the acting deputy assistant secretary for health, touted her work with HHS over the last several years.

“She has been responsible for working with State and local agencies to develop programs that focus on preventing the abuse of children in troubled families, protecting children from abuse, and finding permanent placements for those who cannot safely return to their homes,” he wrote.

The position does not require Senate confirmation, and HHS still may choose someone else to hold the permanent job as Orr is only being appointed in an acting capacity.

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