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A strange appointment

Bush made a poor choice in selecting who will oversee how millions are spent on family planning.

November 27, 2006

PRESIDENT BUsh made some winningly conciliatory remarks the day after his party's Nov. 7 electoral drubbing, saying he looked forward to governing in a more bipartisan fashion. Then he turned around and started naming kooky ideologues to key posts.

The latest recess appointment, Eric Keroack as head of the federal government's family planning office, is an extremist so out of line with scientific thought that it is difficult to describe his views without laughing.

As medical director of A Woman's Concern, a small chain of nonprofit pregnancy counseling clinics that offer no information on birth control, Keroack has agitated against abortion and even contraception -- including for married women. The organization continues to push the discredited nonsense that abortion increases a woman's chances of breast cancer and is more dangerous during the first eight weeks of pregnancy (when, in fact, the risk of complication is actually at its lowest). Birth control, according to A Woman's Concern's tortured logic, is somehow "demeaning to women." And Keroack has argued that women who have sex with multiple partners alter their brain chemistry in the process, making it harder for them to form close relationships.

This is the man who will oversee $283 million in annual Department of Health and Human Services grants for providing access to family planning education and contraceptives "to all who want and need them."

The administration is still wasting $158 million a year on abstinence-only education programs that the Government Accountability Office concluded this month have not been shown to work and at times put forth misleading information about condoms and AIDS.

Keroack does not need Senate confirmation, so there is little Congress can do about a president who continues to select anti-scientific ideology over basic competence, aside from making it clear that funding for these programs depends on HHS using the money as intended.

But the real check on Bush's silliness comes from voters. On Nov. 7, efforts to limit women's reproductive rights were routed not only in California and Oregon but in South Dakota and Kansas. Appeasing social conservatives is not just bad policy, it's becoming losing politics as well.

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