Family planning advocates are denouncing the recent appointment of Dr. Susan Orr as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA). The DASPA oversees Title X, the nation’s family planning program, which provides high-quality family planning and preventive health care services to over 5 million low-income individuals annually, helping to prevent more than one-million unintended pregnancies each year.1
“We are appalled by the appointment of Dr. Susan Orr, who is now responsible for overseeing the only federal funding for family planning services for the poor and uninsured,” stated Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA).2
Orr, formerly the senior director for marriage and family at the Family Research Council, an organization well-known for its anti-contraceptive viewpoint, has served in both the Bush and Clinton administrations in the Administration for Youth and Families.3 She made her views on contraception clear when she applauded President Bush’s effort in 2001 to stop requiring federal employee health insurance plans to cover a wide range of birth control, saying ”fertility is not a disease…[birth control] is not a necessity.” The Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said Orr was “highly qualified” to act as interim Deputy until the position can be permanently filled.4
“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 Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), who joined in on a news conference hosted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Representative DeGette, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) 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,” Murray said.5
This is the second appointment by President Bush in the past year of an anti-birth control advocate. Eric Keroack, appointed to the same post earlier in the year, served as head of an organization called “A Woman’s Concern” prior to his appointment, which boasted an anti-contraception policy. In a statement on the organization’s website he declared birth control to be “demeaning to women.”6 Planned Parenthood, along with 126 members of Congress, nearly 30 media outlets, and 111,000 activists demanded Keroack be removed from this position.7 Due in part to Medicaid fraud allegations in his home state of Massachusetts, Keroack stepped down from the position in April 2007.8
“Dr. Orr’s appointment represents the last gasp of a lame duck President whose regard for the health of the American people is about as firm as sponge cake,” commented William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “Dr. Orr is not only unqualified to oversee this program, she has spent much of her adult life working to destroy it. Congress and the public should be appalled by her appointment, and we should finally pull back the curtain back on the Bush administration’s anti-contraception brigade,” continued Smith.
- “Planned Parenthood Calls on Bush to Replace Anti-Birth Control Extremist Orr as head of Nation’s Family Planning Program,” Planned Parenthood press release, 17 October, 2007, accessed 26 October 2007, <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/news-articles-press/politics-policy-issues/
- “Statement on the Appointment of Dr. Susan Orr by Mary Jane Gallagher,” National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association press release, 16 October 2007, accessed 26 October 2007, <http://www.nfprha.org/main/media_detail.cfm?ID=30>.
- Laura Meckler, “Contraception Foe Named to Contraception Post,” 16 October 2007, accessed 19 November 2007, < http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2007/10/16/fertile-ground-for-disagreement/>.
- “Democrats Protest HHS Appointment,” Washington Post Online, 19 October 2007, accessed 26 October 2007, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/18/AR2007101802540.html>.
- David Crary, “Family Planning Appointment Denounced,” Washington Post Online, 19 October 2007, accessed 26 October 2007, < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/18/AR2007101801728.html>.
- “Planned Parenthood Calls on Bush to Replace Anti-Birth Control Extremist Orr as head of Nation’s Family Planning Program.”