Family planning appointment is anti-reproductive rights
Published Nov 2, 2007 11:38 PM
The Bush administration has once again struck a blow against women’s
rights and the health and well-being of millions of poor people.
In a move roundly denounced by national women’s and reproductive health
organizations, Bush supporter and birth control foe Dr. Susan Orr was appointed
to be the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs. No
congressional confirmation is required.
An anti-family planning hardliner is now in charge of the national family
planning program. The appointment reflects the intent of the Bush
administration, in its last year in office, to roll back even further
women’s fundamental rights and health care, especially targeting poor
The health of millions of women is at stake.
Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, warned, “The appointment
of Susan Orr is a nightmare for anyone who believes in birth control and sex
ed. ... Although President Bush may be in the waning months of his presidency,
he continues to do damage to women’s reproductive health care every step
of his presidency.” (plannedparenthood.org)
This is a powerful position with oversight over Title X funding under the
Public Health Services Act, which provides contraceptive education and
supplies, sex education, counseling and preventive health screenings. It has
authority over information disseminated, program priorities, funding decisions
and making new rules for more than 4,000 clinics.
Orr will oversee the Department of Health and Human Services’ nearly $300
million in annual grants—the only federal funding for free or low-cost
reproductive health services for five million low-income and uninsured women. A
disproportionately high number of these women are people of color.
Orr has a large portfolio of right-wing credentials. She has publicly deplored
government support for birth control in education, policy and health insurance,
and opposed emergency contraceptives and
mifepristone (RU-496). As a board member of Teen Choice, she supports abstinence-only sex education programs for
In supporting Bush’s plan to end federal employees’ contraceptive
coverage, Orr remarked, “We’re quite pleased because fertility is
not a disease. It’s not a medical necessity that you have
[contraception].” (Washington Post, Apr. 12, 2001)
Critical of mandatory contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans, she
wrote in the Weekly Standard in 2000: “It’s not about choice.
It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone
collaborators with the culture of death.” Further, she opposed a bill
giving women equal insurance benefits for birth control prescriptions in
Orr favored the Bush administration’s Global Gag Rule, which barred
non-governmental organizations from receiving federal monies if their programs
even mentioned the word “abortion.”
Her résumé includes being senior director for Marriage and Family
Care at the far-right Family Research Council, an anti-choice, homophobic
organization that opposes government support for all family planning and sex
education, while promoting abstinence-only sex education for youth.
This so-called “pro-family values” outfit even opposed the State
Children’s Health Insurance Program. Their position, in part, alleges
that it lets states provide family planning services to poor women. Bush
recently vetoed the expansion of SCHIP to cover ten million children
As the Bush administration pushes its reactionary political agenda at the
sacrifice of women’s and poor people’s health, the drive to
dismantle social programs and cut federal funding for them—while fueling
the war budget—rolls on.
The horrific “Deficit Reduction Act” of 2005, which cut $39 billion
in federal programs including $11 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, had a
hidden attack on students and youth, poor and uninsured women. It ended
government rebates in 2007 to profit-driven drug makers for discounting
prescription birth control at college health centers and free clinics. Monthly
costs have gone from $7 to from $30 to $50.
Meanwhile, rightwing anti-contraceptive rhetoric is growing louder, espoused by
not only anti-choice groups but many conservative politicians on the campaign
trail, who are using this issue to whip up support.
The right-wing program has had an impact. A National Women’s Law Center
study finds women’s health care is deteriorating nationally with
“an overall decline in ... reproductive health, [due to] factors such as
insufficient access to health clinics and emergency contraceptives.”
What is needed today is a national, militant mass struggle to push back Susan
Orr, George Bush and their ilk and fight for women’s intrinsic
Online petitions and letter-writing campaigns protesting Orr’s
appointment are at plannedparenthood.org and prochoice.org, Web site of the
National Abortion Federation.
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