Once again, President George Bush has appointed an opponent of women’s reproductive rights to head the Office of Population Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Susan Orr, who has a Ph.D. but is not a physician, will be the acting HHS deputy assistant secretary, administering $283 million in yearly Title X grants to provide contraception and other preventive health services for low-income families. The office serves more than 5 million U.S. women each year.
In 2001, when Orr was senior director for marriage and families at the right-wing Family Research Council, she expressed delight when Bush proposed dropping a requirement that federal employees’ health insurance cover more than one type of birth control. “We’re quite pleased,” said Orr, according to The Washington Post, “because fertility is not a disease. It’s not a medical necessity that you have [birth control].”
Orr, who was previously an associate commissioner in HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, replaces Eric Keroack, whose appointment was deplored by family planning advocates. Keroack had previously been medical director of an anti-abortion Christian crisis pregnancy center that opposed distributing contraceptives. He resigned just five months into his tenure after receiving notice from the Massachusetts medical board that it was investigating complaints of unprofessional behavior and writing prescriptions to non-patients in his private practice.