Rodham Clinton joined birth control advocates Thursday in
demanding that the Bush administration withdraw an
appointment that places federal family planning funds
under the control of a woman they consider hostile to
Susan Orr, who
has been one of the top Department of Health and Human
Services officials dealing with child welfare, was appointed
this week as the agency's acting deputy assistant
secretary for population affairs. That puts her in
charge of $283 million in 2007 federal funding for a
range of family planning services as well as funding for
front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination,
said Orr's appointment ''sends a message to women that
ideology trumps women's health.''
satire to see what this administration has once again
done,'' Clinton said during a phone-in news conference.
''It's the fox guarding the henhouse when it comes to
Orr worked in
Health and Human Services as a child welfare specialist
during Bill Clinton's presidency and later served as senior
director for marriage and family at the Family
Research Council, a conservative advocacy group that
supports abstinence-only education and often opposes
initiatives to broaden access to contraception.
''This really is
an Alice in Wonderland moment, where you have an
individual appointed for a position overseeing birth control
who opposes federal involvement in birth control,''
said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, who
also joined in the news conference hosted by the
Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
and two other Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray, of
Washington and Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, said they
would write to Health and Human Services secretary
Mike Leavitt asking that Orr be replaced.
''We need a
candidate with a serious commitment to women's health,''
In her new post,
which is not subject to Senate confirmation, Orr
oversees Title X, the federal family planning program that
serves more than 5 million low-income Americans
annually. It is credited with helping prevent more
than 1 million unintended pregnancies each year.
A Health and
Human Services spokesman, Kevin Schweers, said Orr wouldn't
have accepted the job if she couldn't support the Bush
administration's policies, including providing ''safe
and effective contraceptive products and services to
clients in need.''
''Of course, we
also support the teaching of abstinence to young people
as the only 100% effective means of preventing pregnancy,
HIV, and sexually transmitted infections,'' Schweers
Several of the
groups opposing Orr's appointment have chided her for a
remark made in 2001, when she praised the Bush
administration for proposing to give federal employees
the option to choose a health plan that didn't include
family planning coverage.
pleased, because fertility is not a disease,'' said Orr,
who was then with the Family Research Council.
Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, said Orr's
appointment was dismaying because it signaled an
uphill fight to gain more federal funding for family
Democrats now controlling congress, ''we stand to address
the underfunding,'' Richards said. ''We need an ally
in the federal government.''
This is the
second time in 12 months that a controversy had flared over
the same job.
Parenthood and its allies also opposed the appointment last
year of physician Eric Keroack to head the population
affairs office, citing his previous work with an
organization that opposed contraception. Keroack
resigned in March after Medicaid officials in Massachusetts
launched an investigation into his private practice. (David