Break out the champagne (and birth control pills).Â Eric Keroack â€” President Bushâ€™s anti-birth control appointee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) â€” has resigned!Â
Keroack began work as the newly appointed deputy assistant secretary for population affairs (DASPA) in November.Â Upon his appointment, family planning and womenâ€™s health advocates across the country expressed outrage that a person who opposes the basic tools of family planning â€” birth control and sex education â€” would be put in charge of the nation's family planning program.
As DASPA, Keroack advised HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt on vital issues related to reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy in the U.S.Â He also oversaw Title X â€” America's family planning program, which provides preventive health services to millions of low-income women each year.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards summed up the mood of family planning advocates after news of Keroackâ€™s resignation:
"Itâ€™s a good day for womenâ€™s health. Keroack was unqualified to run the nationâ€™s family planning program. The Bush administration must replace Keroack with a legitimate, mainstream public health expert who supports family planning and access to birth control. More than 17 million women in our country need access to affordable birth control. The nationâ€™s family planning program should be run by a champion for womenâ€™s health and safety."
In his previous role, Keroack served as medical director for A Womanâ€™s Concern (AWC), a nonprofit group that runs six so-called â€œcrisis pregnancy centersâ€ in Massachusetts.Â Under Keroack's supervision, AWC health centers would not distribute, advocate, or offer referrals for birth control.Â AWC states in its material that â€œthe crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness.â€Â
AWC is also the parent organization of Healthy Futures, the largest faith-based abstinence-only program in Massachusetts.Â Keroack himself lectures far and wide on abstinence for organizations like The Abstinence Clearinghouse.Â In his prepared talks, he has compared premarital sex to â€œmodern germ warfareâ€ and, drawing from a study on rodents, suggests that premarital sex diminishes a person's ability to emotionally bond with future partners.
Let's hope that the next person who oversees the nation's family planning program actually supports family planning.Â