On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.”
But a look at Orr’s record shows that her strongest qualifications appear to be her right-wing credentials and endorsement of the Bush administration’s failed abstinence-only policies. Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Some highlights:
– In a 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr.
– At the 2001 Conservative Political Action Conference, Orr cheered Bush’s endorsement of Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which required NGOs receiving federal funds to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” Orr said that it was proof Bush was pro-life “in his heart.”
– In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.”
– Orr authored a paper in 2000 titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.”
As Steve Benen notes, the office of family planning carries tremendous importance. Orr will “oversee HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.”
Last year, President Bush appointed Eric Keroack to oversee the office. Keroack had previously worked for a Christian pregnancy counseling group that opposes contraception. He stepped down in March over ethical problems.
UPDATE: Jill at Feministe points out that Orr has also referred to child protection as “the most intrusive arm of social services.”
UDPATE II: Take action opposing Orr’s nomination HERE.
UPDATE III: Statement on Orr from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):
This appointment is absurd. Dr. Orr’s support of unproven abstinence-only programs would in itself raise flags about her commitment to comprehensive family planning for low-income girls and women. But in 2000, Dr. Orr said that requiring insurers to cover family planning supplies and services — a policy that promotes access to contraception in many states and the federal employee health program — is “about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.” This leaves little doubt about where she has stood on contraception access. [...]
I’m no longer surprised by this kind of decision — ideology firmly holds the reins over reproductive health in this White House. But this lack of commitment to comprehensive reproductive health, combined with cramped budgets, is an insult and a disservice to the millions of low-income people who rely on Title X for family planning and preventive health services.