Jo Ann Gasper, an antiabortion activist recently fired from the Department of Health and Human Services for refusing to renew grants to Planned Parenthood groups, has been hired by Education Secretary William J. Bennett, according to Department of Education officials.
"Bennett thought it was bad for the administration to simply leave it that she was fired," said an education official who asked not to be named. "She was both a loyal and effective manager and administrator . . . . It's not a charity case; she's a very competent woman."
HHS Secretary Otis R. Bowen fired Gasper early this month for insubordination after she repeatedly refused his orders and those of her supervisor to renew training grants totaling $300,000 to the groups.
Education officials said Gasper will become a policy analyst, working on youth and family issues that deal with sex education, suicide, drug abuse and similar subjects. Unlike her position at HHS, where she was deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, Gasper's post will not include administration of department programs.
In the meantime, Bowen has named Nabers Cabaniss, who was an aide to former senator Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), to replace Gasper. The appointment of Cabaniss, who has been running the adolescent family life program at HHS, was been urged by a coalition of anti-abortion members of Congress headed by Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Gordon J. Humphrey (R-N.H.) and Reps. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.).
Gasper, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said at a news conference after her dismissal that Bowen "fired me because I refused to fund abortionists." She said Bowen made a "closed-door deal" with members of the Senate supporting abortion rights. "Nothing was to be done . . . . The entanglement of abortion and abortion-related activities with the family planning program was going to continue," she said.
Education officials said Gasper will serve as a community liaison on family and youth issues as well as review curricula and programs on the subject.