Since Dr. Keroack seems so reluctant to clear up the mystery, we're left to rely on what he's already said. And as a public official charged with safeguarding women's health, that is more than he might want us to know
Most advocates for women's health feel concern about the policies of a family planning chief who "once compared premarital sex to drug use."
Dr. Keroack's own PowerPoint presentation reveals that he certainly does consider sex outside of marriage equivalent to drug use. How about sex = heroin and cocaine?
We are assured by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, by the Bush administration and by Keroack's colleagues in the crisis pregnancy center business that he is not only highly qualified, but a conscientious and caring OB/GYN who can be trusted to safeguard women's health -- a characterization that presupposes an innate respect for women themselves.
But, in a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature on his use of ultrasound to dissuade women from abortion, Keroack wrote, "Even Midas lets you look at your old muffler before they advise you to change it." And he included this graphic as part of his argument postulating a physiological justification for his prescription for sexual purity.
The come-hither Pauli Girl appears just a few frames before Keroack explains his now notorious oxytocin theory by comparing women to rodents in heat.
Which somehow ties in to why women can't be expected to have sex before marriage without becoming either nymphomaniacal . . .
. . . or spiraling down into some other mental disorder.
If Bush's HHS thought a belated assurance that Keroack had scribbled a prescription for birth control once upon a time was going to calm the waters, it was quickly disabused of that particular delusion.
HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said Tuesday that most of Keroack's professional time had been devoted to his private practice of 20 years.
"When he was in private practice as a doctor, he did prescribe birth control," Pearson said. "And he did family planning with patients at their request as part of his private physician role." She said Keroack prescribed contraceptives for married and unmarried women.
Jackie Payne, director of government relations for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Keroack's record of opposing birth control speaks for itself.
"The fact that he's the medical director of an organization that takes that position is, at best, hypocritical if he's doing something different in private practice," she said. "That's not the kind of advocate for birth control that we need. We need someone to head up the family-planning program who is wholeheartedly for family planning."
Adrienne Verrilli is director of communications for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. SIECUS advocates for accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality and sexual health services. Before joining SIECUS, Verrilli was the senior communications and policy analyst of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. And the Bush administration's too little, too late commercial for Keroack's contraception credentials isn't fooling her for a minute.
In a classic "say what?" moment last week, President George W. Bush appointed an anti-birth control, anti-sex education doctor to head the federal family planning program. The good news: leaders on Capitol Hill and national women's health groups are pushing back.
It's a safe bet that President Bush would never appoint a doctor hostile to radiation treatment or chemotherapy to head the National Cancer Institute. Yet when it comes to issues concerning women's or adolescent health, he routinely does the unthinkable.
What are Keroack's qualifications aside from having a medical degree? None. ... Keroack has made his medical career about denying women the very care that Title X provides. Crisis pregnancy centers are notorious for being run by anti-abortion activists disguised as legitimate health care providers. These centers provide false and misleading information to women in an attempt to dissuade them from having an abortion. The Keroack centers do much more. ... A Women's Concern denigrates the use of contraception by falsely claiming ... that "distribution of birth control, especially among adolescents, actually increases `out-of-wedlock' pregnancy and abortion."
Because Keroack's new position does not require Senate approval, his appointment cannot be held up or rejected. Instead, the hope is that enough outside pressure will force the Administration to back down, much like it did when it tried to appoint a veterinarian to head the women's health division of the Federal Food and Drug Administration. (And yes, I wish I was making that up.)
At TomPaine.com, another hard-to-fool woman explains that in appointing Keroack, Bush was following a family tradition. Carole Joffe is professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis, a senior fellow at the Longview Institute and author of Doctors of Conscience.
So how did we get to this Orwellian situation where the person in charge of helping poorer Americans obtain birth control thinks the major service his office provides is "demeaning and degrading?" In fact, though Keroack's record of opposition to contraception is unmatched by previous DASPAs, the position has long been used by Republican presidents as a relatively pain-free way to reward their extreme rightwing base.
By making such a clearly inappropriate--if not bizarre--appointment, President Bush is following in the steps of his father, George H. W. Bush. The DASPA during the latter's presidency was William Reynolds Archer III, an obstetrician gynecologist who publicly and proudly proclaimed himself sexually abstinent at the age of 37. He was famously quoted in the press as saying that "when it became possible for women to buy contraceptives on their own, men lost their manhood."
In contrast, the DASPA who followed Archer, in President Clinton's administration, was the late Felicia Stewart, a highly respected physician whose major achievement in that office was to convince the FDA to rule on the safety of emergency contraception. ... Dr. Stewart did what one would expect someone in this position to do--determined the safety and efficacy of contraceptive options and worked to make them more available to the public.
The irony in all this is that, while Archer and Keroack were selected for their long involvement with anti-abortion groups, and Dr. Stewart was a supporter of abortion rights, it was her work as DASPA that actually led to fewer abortions. The highly respected Guttmacher Institute, a private organization that studies reproductive health, estimated recently that some 50,000 abortions per year are averted because of EC.
Dr. Keroack assumes his post at a time when low-income women are losing ground in their ability to obtain birth control. The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that about half of all poor women who need birth control are unable to afford it. The $283 million now allocated to Title X has not been raised in several years and is not enough to meet the need. If the funding were doubled, the experts at Guttmacher say, that would prevent some 244,000 unintended pregnancies, 116,000 unplanned births and about 98,000 abortions annually. But meeting such contraceptive need is hardly likely to happen on our new DASPA's watch.
And in concert with the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, the Austin Chronicle is casting a highly jaundiced eye upon claims regarding Keroack's competence.
Wack-Ass Keroack, Part Three
Twenty-four organizations - an array including Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Organization for Women, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists - signed on to a letter sent Nov. 21 to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, urging him to reconsider the appointment of pro-life, anti-contraceptive doctor Eric Keroack to be deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, charged with oversight and administration of the nation's family planning program funds.
The federal fam-planning program provides reproductive health care - often the most comprehensive preventative care available to low income, uninsured women - administered with Title X welfare funding, which provides, on average, services to more than 5 million women each year.
Congressional Democrats - including several likely to head up committees that oversee HHS funding and operations - also voiced concerns about Keroack's appointment in two letters sent to Leavitt, echoing the content of the letter penned by the family planning groups. Nonetheless, it appears that, so far, HHS is standing firm. HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson told reporters this week that Keroack isn't opposed to birth control - he actually prescribed contraceptives while working in private practice - and "did family planning with patients at their request as part of his private physician role," statements that, nicely yet obviously, skim right past Keroack's more recent involvement with the anti-contraceptive [A Woman's Concern]. Further, Pearson told the Washington Post, Keroack was a certified ob-gyn for 10 whole years -- although he recently "inadvertently missed" his recertification deadline. Never fear, though, according to Pearson, Keroack "plans to seek" recertification soon.
What a relief.
Yeah, what a relief. Take two birth control pills, call me in the morning, and tell me -- who is this masked man? Because the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs isn't talking.
[Title image: Stock photo from Fort Wayne-Allen County Dept. of Health]