Abstinence-only zealot to oversee Title X?

The appointment is an unbelievably nervy move -- even for the Bush administration.

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

This has to be a bad joke. For days now we’ve been hearing buzz from reliable sources that nut-job OB-GYN Eric Keroack will be ushered in as deputy assistant secretary for the Bush administration’s Office of Population Affairs, which oversees the Office of Family Planning. Now, the buzz has spread to the blogosphere and online news outlets, and the prospect is just too scary to ignore. Bush has apparently appointed one of the worst kinds of antiabortion zealots — a doctor who poses as an ally to women in need while pushing his agenda — to oversee Title X, the federal program dedicated to family planning and reproductive health. If the scuttlebutt’s not true, the joke’s happily on us and we’ll rejoice that — for the time being — the world is that much less a crooked place.

Keroack is the medical director of A Woman’s Concern, a string of Boston crisis pregnancy centers, and has gained esteem among the religious right for “saving more babies” by pushing ultrasounds on women considering having abortions. An advisor for the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, he pushes abstinence-only education and a pseudo-scientific theory claiming that promiscuity exploits the release of oxytocin, ruining one’s “bonding ability” and, ultimately, destroying the institution of marriage. (For a truly hair-raising laugh, check out his wonky, cartoon-filled presentation on the topic.) In other words, Keroack has fought against one of the most fundamental aims of Title X: providing accurate reproductive health information.

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So we’re fervently hoping the Keroack rumblings prove false. Still, we can’t forget last year, when the Bush administration nominated a veterinarian — as in animal doctor — as the acting director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health, and then effected a quick switcheroo after Planned Parenthood raised holy hell over the nomination. With an event like that lurking in recent memory, it seems wise to send an early reminder that only legitimate reproductive health experts should be helming reproductive health programs.

Update: Unfortunately, this wasn’t a joke. Since this post was written up the buzz has been confirmed. The Washington Post’s coverage offers this disturbing quote from the A Woman’s Concern Web site: “[T]he crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness.”

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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