Dr. Just-Say-No
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Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 03:03:45 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMeet Dr. Eric Keroack.

He's a favorite guest speaker at meetings of the National Right to Life Committee.

He's on the Medical Advisory Council for the notorious Leslee Unruh's National Abstinence Clearinghouse, whence he expounds on such topics as the Physical and Emotional Consequences of Premarital Sex.

He teaches that there is a physiological cause [pdf link] for relationship failure and sexual promiscuity -- a hormonal cause-and-effect that can only be short-circuited by sexual abstinence until marriage. [ editor's note: the following images, except when otherwise noted, are from the powerpoint presentation described and linked to above ]

He's the full time medical director for A Woman's Concern, a chain of Boston-area crisis pregnancy centers where he spreads all the usual lies about abortion, and uses ultrasound scans as a tool to influence the decisions of women who might be considering abortion.

He was one of the "experts" who determined that federally funded abstinence education programs must mention contraceptives only in relation to their failure rates and promote abstinence until marriage.  

Now, in what has been characterized as a "stealth" appointment by the Bush administration, we hear that Keroack is set to assume a new post as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs. The DASPA oversees a number of Health and Human Services programs, including the Office of Family Planning.

Dr. Eric Keroack works his heart out for the Christian right. And it appears that, as of Monday morning, he'll be working for us, too.

Last June, Keroack was a featured speaker at the 10th Annual International Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City, where he provided his somewhat unorthodox insights into the role of hormones in relationship failure.

Oxytocin is a hormone whose actions are associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and maternal-infant bonding -- and, according to Keroack, it's the tie that binds in marriage, as well. People don't fall in love, but into hormonal bondage. Therefore, the most important rationale for sexual abstinence isn't faith-based at all, but purely physiological.  Unfaithful men and promiscuous women are created by misuse of the "emotional glue" of attraction, an abuse leading to a "perpetual cycle of misery."  

In his presentation at the 10th Annual Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City earlier this month, Dr. Eric Keroack ... explained that oxytocin is released during positive social interaction, massage, hugs, "trust" encounters, and sexual intercourse. "It promotes bonding by reducing fear and anxiety in social settings, increasing trust and trustworthiness, reducing stress and pain, and decreasing social aggression," he said.

Forty percent of couples who live together break up before they marry and of the 60 percent that do marry, 40 percent of them divorce after 10 years. ... So why do so many adults continue in a cycle of sex without a marriage commitment, cohabitation, and failed relationships? This perpetual cycle of misery is due largely to the role of oxytocin. The following is Dr. Keroack's explanation of the cycle:

Emotional pain causes our bodies to produce an elevated level of endorphins which in turn lowers the level of oxytocin. Therefore, relationship failure leads to pain which leads to elevated endorphins which leads to lower oxytocin the result of which is a lower ability to bond. Many in this increased state of emotional pain and lower oxytocin seek sex as a substitute for love which inevitably leads to another failed relationship, and so on, the cycle continues.

There is hope for the weary brokenhearted, Dr. Keroack said, but it requires abstinence and plenty of time for healing.

Keroack's fitting title for that novel presentation [PowerPoint link] was "If I Only Had a Brain."  In an unpublished article that has become an established text of the abstinence movement, he wrote, "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual." Keroack's teaching on the role of "God's 'super-glue'" is accepted as irrefutable in an article titled Fornication and Oxytocin.

In women, a more positive relationship with her mate is associated with higher levels of oxytocin. This suggests that a woman's previous sexual relationships can alter the release of the biochemical "super-glue." If a woman's sexual history is sufficiently adverse, she will lose her ability to bond in the current relationship.

An interesting finding in oxytocin research is the likelihood that oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance in the brain's opiate receptors. The excitement of sex is partly credited to endorphins exciting opiate receptors. As a human relationship matures, fewer endorphins are released. If sexual relationships are well bonded, though, the oxytocin response maintains the excitement despite how few endorphins are released. This keeps excitement present between oxytocin-bonded couples.

In the same way, though, these studies reveal the rationale behind an inability of some to stay bonded in seemingly good relationships. People who have misused sex to become bonded with multiple persons will diminish their oxytocin bonding within their current relationship. In the absence of oxytocin, the person will find less or no excitement. The person will, then, feel the need to move on to what looks more exciting.
Medical Information provided by: "Bonding Imperative," [a special report from the Abstinence Medical Council] by Eric J. Keroack, MD, FACOG and John R. Diggs Jr., MD.

The article speculates that "the science is still new, and more must be learned concerning the role of oxytocin in human bonding," but the inescapable conclusion is that keeping a woman abstinent until she walks down the aisle is the best way to keep her faithful after the honeymoon's over.

[ image, left : from the June 30, 2006 newletter of the Loiusiana Governor's Program On Abstinence ]

At Brandeis University's 2002 Christian Awareness Week, Keroack presented the grim vision of human sexuality that he brings with him to the agency that directs the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs.

Eric Keroack, medical director of A Woman's Concern Health Centers, a pro-life counseling organization, said sexual activity today is comparable to warfare.

"Sexual activity is a war zone," he said. "What we have is this ongoing war. So we're constantly coming up with better equipment," he said, referring to contraceptive strategies and abortions.

"And the truth is that somewhere along the way people die in war," Keroack added. He acknowledged that deaths from abortion-related complications are rare, but that "they die emotionally."

Knowing how Keroack feels about sex unsanctioned by marriage should have prepared us for his expert medical opinion of birth control. And he also has helped to pioneer the use of ultrasound as a high-tech weapon in the war on abortion.

Focus on the Family applauds Keroack's use of ultrasound to influence women whom Keoack describes as "abortion vulnerable." As medical director of five Boston-area crisis pregnancy centers, Keroack oversees ultrasound scans that he says help to provide "informed consent" for abortion procedures, even though their admitted purpose is to prevent those procedures from ever taking place..

[T]he odds that an unborn child will be brought to term, rather than aborted, can be very nearly inverted by an ultrasound examination, according to a study undertaken by A Woman's Concern, a group of crisis-pregnancy centers in eastern Massachusetts. Before introducing routine ultrasound examinations for the women who visited their centers, A Woman's Concern (AWC) found that 61 percent of the women classified by counselors as "abortion-vulnerable" would opt for abortion prior to an ultrasound examination, while 33.7 percent would choose to carry the pregnancy to term. Once ultrasound examinations were provided, 63.5 percent of the same "abortion-vulnerable" women decided to continue their pregnancies, and only 24.5 percent chose abortion.
Like most other CPCs, AWC was established to serve women who are alarmed by the prospect of pregnancy, and actively considering abortion. At the centers, trained counselors do their best to provide moral guidance and support to women who are often facing objectively horrific situations.
But in many cases, the best efforts of AWC counselors are not enough to change a woman's mind. For the first several years of the organization's existence, roughly two-thirds of the women who entered an AWC center planning to procure an abortion carried through with that plan.
The results of ... ultrasound examinations, beginning in 2000, were so impressive that AWC soon adopted "the medical model" for all five centers.  ... The results of the ultrasound examination are assessed by AWC's medical director, Dr. Eric Keroack, a board-certified ob/gyn.
For crisis-pregnancy centers, the AWC study suggests that investment in ultrasound equipment--and qualified medical personnel handle that equipment--could be the most effective way to drive down the number of abortions. Women facing problem pregnancies have no reason not to accept the offer of a free ultrasound test, and the results of that offer could be dramatic.

As detailed in the article quoted above, the AWC centers directed by Keroack delay women's access to abortion care by suggesting to them that early miscarriages are common, that they could have an ectopic pregnancy or a blighted ovum, and that it would be best to wait a few weeks before making an appointment for an abortion: "For the CPC counselors, meanwhile, the extra 2-3 weeks provide another opportunity to persuade the woman that she should continue her pregnancy. And if the process calls for a follow-up ultrasound examination, there is one more opportunity for the mother to bond with her unborn child."

Aside from emerging evidence of the damaging effects of repeated, prolonged and unnecessary ultrasound exposure upon a developing fetus, professional medical organizations have ethical concerns about nonmedical uses of ultrasound technology.

Professional organizations such as the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), Society for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), American College of Radiology (ACR) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have clarified statements on ultrasound's nonmedical use. "These statements support the use of sonography for medical diagnostic purposes," says Stephanie Ellingson, MS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, RT(R), director of the diagnostic medical sonography program at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City. "That is very different from a nondiagnostic image created and shared specifically with the purpose of influencing a patient's decision."

Not surprisingly, this same unpublished "study" by Keroack has been used to advance proposed legislation to purchase ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy centers with federal funds -- bills such as the Pregnant Women Support Act inspired by the Trojan donkeys of Democrats for Life of America, whose legislative initiative boasts the full support of the Christian right.  And why not, when its abortion-reducing initiatives consist of funding CPCs and imposing restrictive federal regulation upon doctors who provide abortion care, while excluding all support for access to contraception?

Dr. Eric Keroack has compiled quite a record as the Christian right's man in Boston. He now seems set to become their man in Washington, DC -- and ours as well, whether we want him or not.

What irks me is that stupid b**tard in the White House still doesn't get it- HE and the government work for US.

The Democratic party may not be all that aware of this- but this guy needs to be fired before he starts work.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 09:30:58 AM EST

This physician is abusing the trust and credibility that the public lends to him by publishing this completely baseless & unethical study. The public can file a complaint against him with the American Board of Obsetrics/Gynecology, where he is certified, and the Massachusetts Board of Medicine, where he is licensed. You can reach each at: http://www.abog.org/about/contact.html http://www.massmedboard.org/consumer/complaint.shtm

by WilliamOBGYN on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 01:12:36 PM EST
Will definitely write.

The appointment hit the Globe today.

In his new position as deputy assistant secretary for Health and Human Services, Keroack will be responsible for advising Secretary Michael O. Leavitt "on a wide range of health topics, including adolescent pregnancy, family planning, and other population issues," according to a department job description.
But local and national Planned Parenthood officials immediately condemned the appointment, saying Keroack has tried to block women from exercising their right to abortion .

"Putting Dr. Keroack in charge of our nation's largest family planning program is dangerous to women's health," said Dianne Luby , president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
When the American Medical Association recommended against using any "unproven" sex education approach in 2004 -- a reference to abstinence programs -- Keroack criticized the AMA in The Washington Times.

"Abstinence education is the first mechanism that has actually made a positive impact on the devastation caused by the errant sexual education programs of the 1970s and 1980s," he said.

In a 2003 presentation to the International Abstinence Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Keroack wrote in a PowerPoint item that "PRE-MARITAL SEX is really MODERN GERM WARFARE." The presentation outlined a purported scientific basis for how premarital sex ruins later relationships.

Incidentally, was so astounded by moiv's post that I attempted a lit search to see what kind of "research" he uses to back up his claims. Came up with zip. If anyone else stumbles on papers, please post - would like to see them. Bush had made a lot of inappropriate appointment but this tops them all. I am absolutely dumbfounded.

by Psyche on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 02:29:57 PM EST

Or do those powerpoint slides look more than a little like religious tracts? Overwrought, emotionally deceptive, and misleading- just like a religious tract. I mean, seriously! Just that alone screams 'fraud'. And his theory of bonding is totally off-kilter from accepted scientific understanding of how human beings bond.

And of course, he lays the blame squarely on the woman. I guess that men don't have oxytocin receptors.

To quote Bugs Bunny: "Whatta maroon!"

by Lorie Johnson on Sun Nov 19, 2006 at 10:55:26 AM EST

and A.C. Green have teamed up to introduce the Abstinence Clearinghouse curriculum into Massachusetts schools.

The Gerard Foundation sponsored three recent appearances by the Abstinence Clearinghouse' "Truth for Youth" program at Swampscott High, Marblehead High and the all-girl Notre Dame Academy in Hingham.


[T]he kids received an imaginative prop in the form of a realistic looking "ATM" card (Abstinence 'til Marriage) with a "wedding day" expiration date. The person who signs the back of the card agrees to the card's "terms," and the fine print warns what can happen in the case of sex outside of marriage.

Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, tells MassNews that Gerard Health Foundation sponsored the program at several schools but there are also federal dollars available in Massachusetts for schools that are interested.


A group of parents spent an educational couple hours in a roundtable discussion with A.C. Green, his wife Veronique and OB/GYN Dr. Eric Keroack.

Where tax dollars lead, Leslee Unruh follows, and Keroack's professional credentials lend her programs credibility with school officials.

by moiv on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 03:18:09 AM EST

You're not trying to rile me up, are you ? Well, it's working.

It's time to out the "Texas Miracle" before abstinence-only ideology sets off an STD pandemic in Mass. the way it seems to have in Texas.

Also, Keroack's Oxytocin/bonding ideas seem a bit, ummm, speculative to me.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 11:50:29 AM EST

are definitely not "peer-reviewed" science. He's a common quack, and despite the colorful PowerPoint slides and "scientific" vocabulary, there is not even the remotest scientific validity to his weird ideas.
I've taught medical students, and MDs really get a very limited, basic and superficial amount of biochemistry/physiology/pharmacology in their education, which can often lead to a lot of absurd nonsense like this. And bad pharmaceutical therapies as well.
He may get a political appointment, but he won't last long in a professional civil service atmosphere when the political winds are changing. I expect the Republican War on Science will be in fast retreat after this recent election, and I can imagine the great sense of relief career federal scientists must be experiencing right now- they only have to survive two more years of this absurdity.  

by dorothy in oz on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 04:48:14 PM EST
If you have any suggestions on anyone who has the credentials to put Keroack's odd theories in perspective and why might be inclined,  please don't be shy.

Many people with the requisite experience might be quick to write off Keroack's theories, but that's a mistake -  he's fairly influential and provides a veneer of legitimacy that needs to be discredited.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 06:19:32 PM EST

The science blog pharyngula does have a brief discussion of Keroack's theories on 16 November under the category "Kooks-Politics: Reproduction"  (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/bad_science_its_okjust _put_him.php#comments). Nice to see that someone references your talk2action post in the comments section. The AMA has already gone on record many times as not supporting abstinence-only sex ed, but they have no influence over these political extremists. Doctors are supposed to be "self-policing" through their state medical review boards but in reality they have very little ability to control quacks even when they've actually killed people. Scientists are also very reluctant to get involved as individuals in political controversy because most of them are just not very skilled in non-technical debate (which is why it took a while to formulate a group response to the most recent wave of creationism). Eventually I would expect some kind of professional group response to Keroack's appointment. There is a new political organization of gov't scientists called SEA (Scientists and Engineers for America, http://www.sefora.org/index.php) that I will be watching to see if they are willing to take on issues like this.

by dorothy in oz on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 05:52:30 PM EST
Many scientists are uncomfortable about getting into political situations because of the way science has been misused over the years by politicians.  Examples include the Eugenics movement (largely started in America and still existing here), pseudo-scientific theories on race used to maintain discrimination, and there are many other that could be given.

Most disciplines have VERY strict ethical guidelines.  Anthropology has several, and discussion of ethics is part of the education and training of anthropologists (irregardless of subfield).  At the PhD level (at least at USF), there is a required class specifically on legal and ethical concerns and standards.  I rather think this is the norm.

I am still just working on my MA, but I've considered taking that course.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 07:41:14 PM EST

Thinking about it, I can point out anthropological arguments against his statement.  I am aware of several cultures (including how my own USED to be generations ago) where sexual activity was normal before marriage, and then once you were married, you were expected to remain faithful.  If his argument was correct, the incidence of divorce and infidelity would have been very high in my culture (and the others).

The evidence is that it was just the opposite, the incidence was very LOW.

(Also, think about the divorce rate among the "religious right" who preach abstinence, and that of the general population who do not necessarily accept that idea.)

So, you have one answer from one discipline- if this was a biological fact, then in every culture the response would be similar.  It isn't.

I reject the theory, based upon this fact: that it doesn't demonstrate validity in cross-cultural comparisons.  As far as the biochemical aspects, that isn't my realm of knowledge.

Psychologists deal more with brain chemistry and the effects on behavior than other disciplines, so they would be the ones to ask about the biochemistry.  However, it sounds like bad science (and you know the saying... if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck...)

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 09:25:54 PM EST

While I understand and accept the fact that abstinence is the only 100% effective message of preventing unwanted pregnancy, I am adamantly opposed to "abstinence only" education. All of Keroack's "studies" seem to be rather far-fetched to me. I much prefer scientific studies that have been peer reviewed than a bunch of stuff that doesn't stand up to critical analysis.

I believe that the best type of sex education is a course that gives both the pros and cons of ALL types of contraception.

by LynneK on Mon Nov 20, 2006 at 10:17:46 AM EST
and his appointment is no aberration. This is merely the latest manifestation of the Christian right's determination to de-fund what they call the "contraceptive mentality."

Because according to their view of human sexuality, abstinence until marriage is the only way to go.

by moiv on Mon Nov 20, 2006 at 01:43:35 PM EST

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