To Oversee Family Planning

Sunday, November 19, 2006

ERIC KEROACK is the medical director of an antiabortion "pregnancy counseling" center that refuses to distribute contraceptives or encourage their use -- even by married couples. The organization, called "A Woman's Concern," says it is "persuaded that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality, and adverse to human health and happiness." It believes -- despite abundant evidence to the contrary -- that making birth control available, "especially among adolescents, actually increases (rather than decreases) out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion."

These views would be merely bizarre were it not for this additional disturbing fact: Dr. Keroack, an obstetrician-gynecologist, is about to start work at the Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing federally funded family planning programs. To put it simply, the Bush administration's choice to direct the federal effort to make contraceptives available to low-income women works for a group that doesn't support using contraception. What comes next -- a science adviser who doesn't believe in evolution?

HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson says that Dr. Keroack, in his private medical practice, has prescribed contraception, although she could not say whether that included unmarried women. But Dr. Keroack's involvement with A Woman's Concern raises doubts about his commitment to the fundamental concept of the federal family planning program, which, by offering timely and affordable access to reliable contraception, has helped prevent millions of unintended pregnancies. Unfortunately, the position to which Dr. Keroack is being named, deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, isn't subject to Senate confirmation. It should be subject, though, to common sense. President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt should reconsider this ill-advised choice.

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