Less than a week ago, the World Health Organization released one of the most comprehensive studies to date on reproductive health. Its conclusions were not surprising — the only effective way to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions is to make contraception widely available.
Five days later, the White House has responded to this reality by naming an opponent of birth control to head the federal government’s family planning office.
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.
Orr will replace Eric Keroack, a doctor who believes the distribution of contraceptives is “demeaning to women,” and who had a history of saying truly nutty things, such as the belief that condoms “offer virtually no protection” against herpes or HPV.
Yes, I know, we’re talking about the Bush administration. When looking for someone to head up family-planning programs, loyal Bushies aren’t going to put Joycelyn Elders’ resume at the top of the list. I get that.
But this is ridiculous. It’s as if the Bush administration is trying to find the most offensive choices possible for public-health posts.