Evangelical Doctor May Have Influenced Decision on Emergency Contraception

A controversial Bush appointment to an important Food and Drug Administration advisory panel may have inordinately influenced the FDA’s decision on over-the-counter status for emergency contraception (EC). The Nation obtained a videotaped sermon given in October 2004 by Dr. W. David Hager, an evangelical Christian who was appointed by President Bush to serve on the FDA’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. This committee was tasked, along with the Nonprescription Drugs Panel, with recommending whether the emergency contraceptive Plan B should receive over-the-counter status. The panels voted overwhelmingly (23-4) to recommend approval with no restrictions. Not surprisingly, Hager, who inaccurately believes EC causes abortion, was one of the four “nay” votes, according to The Nation.

However, what was not known until recently was that Dr. Hager claims that he was asked to write a minority opinion for the FDA commissioner explaining why over-the-counter status for emergency contraception (EC) should be rejected, according to the Washington Post. “Now the opinion I wrote was not from an evangelical Christian perspective É But I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and He used it through this minority report to influence the decision,” Hager said in his October 2004 sermon, according to The Nation.

Though an FDA spokeswoman says that no one at the FDA asked Hager to write a report, according to the Washington Post, women’s reproductive health and rights groups are demanding that Hager’s report be made public and that the FDA explain the role it played in its decision-making process. “The FDA’s credibility has taken serious hits of late,” said Beth Jordan, MD, medical director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “The FDA must address immediately the damning charges that an ideologically driven, fundamentalist Christian was able to exert an inordinate amount of influence over a decision that should be entirely based on the best medical science. Had it been, Plan B emergency contraception would certainly be available over-the-counter now and the nation could more seriously tackle the problem of unintended pregnancies.”

In the same Nation expose, the magazine interviewed Hager’s ex-wife, Linda Davis, who alleged that over the course of their 32-year marriage, Hager was demanding and controlling, especially in the arenas of money and sex. Davis alleged to The Nation that Hager sexually abused her. The Nation confirmed Davis’ story of sexual abuse with several on and off the record sources whom Davis had confided in over the years.

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The Nation 5/30/05; Washington Post 5/12/05; Reproductive Health Technologies Project 5/12/05

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