Friday, November 17, 2006

Contra-contraception

So you're President Bush. You've just been shellacked by the voters, and there's a chorus of calls for compromise and bipartisanship. So what do you do?

Besides his previously reported efforts to get controversial nominations and bills through the lame-duck Congress, how about continuing the culture war -- this time by putting an opponent of contraception in charge of the federal program charged with providing affordable contraceptives to the poor.

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.

Keroack, an obstetrician-gynecologist, will advise Secretary Mike Leavitt on matters such as reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy. He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons."

On its website, A Woman's Concern says "commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness."

Sure sounds like the people who should be put in charge of distributing them.

The position does not require confirmation, and is subordinate to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. But Leavitt himself has not been notably friendly to contraception, famously delaying a decision on the Plan B "emergency" birth-control pill for a year, in violation of his agency's own rules and with total disregard for the recommendations of his advisory panels.

I yearn for a future where the people put in charge of programs actually support the goals of those programs, where science is judged on its merits rather than its political implications, where policy is driven more by evidence than ideology, where serving the nation is more important than servicing a tiny partisan constituency.

Two more years.

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