The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is defending the appointment of Eric Keroack to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary even though 21 members of Congress and many women’s rights groups have written to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt opposing the decision. Last week, President Bush announced that Dr. Keroack, who was the medical director for a group of anti-choice, anti-contraceptive “crisis pregnancy centers,’ will advise Secretary Leavitt on issues such as reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy and will administer Title X funds, which are intended for contraceptive supplies and information, particularly for low-income people.
On Monday, seven House Democrats, including Representatives Louise Slaughter (NY), who is expected to chair the House Rules Committee, and Henry Waxman (CA), who is expected to chair the House Government Reform Committee, wrote a letter to Secretary Leavitt opposing Bush’s decision. The next day, 14 Democratic Senators signed a similar letter. In addition, Secretary Leavitt has been receiving email messages from members of several women’s organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood.
HHS spokesperson Christina Pearson defended the appointment yesterday, claiming that Keroack is not opposed to birth control, despite his affiliation with an anti-contraceptive organization, the Washington Post reports. According to Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, Pearson added that Keroack “did family planning with patients at their request as part of his private physician role.” Jackie Payne, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said of HHS’ defense, “The fact that he’s the medical director of an organization that takes [an anti-contraception] position is, at best, hypocritical if he’s doing something different in private practice… That’s not the kind of advocate for birth control that we need. We need someone to head up the family-planning program who is wholeheartedly for family planning,” the Washington Post reports.
Dr. Eric Keroack started in his new role last week.