HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dr. Susan Orr - Acting Ass't Secretary for Population Affairs

President Bush appointed Dr. Susan Orr, formerly Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families, as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS).  There is just one small drawback with her appointments as RHrealitycheck reports

The Office of Population Affairs advises the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Health on "a wide range of reproductive health topics, including adolescent pregnancy, family planning, and sterilization, as well as other population issues," says the OPHS website. Sounds like you might want to count contraception as one of your areas of expertise in that post, right? Not Dr. Orr! In 2001, when President Bush proposed eliminating the requirement that federal employees' health insurance offer a range of options for birth control coverage, Dr. Orr, then the senior director for marriage and families at the Family Research Council, told the Washington Post, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."

Clearly, Dr. Orr's definition of "medical necessity" does not recognize that women in the world over consider controlling their bodies and the number and spacing of their children foundational to their well-being. If that's not a medical necessity, what is?

Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement that her organization was "appalled" at Orr's appointment and observed that "While her resume suggests a commitment to child welfare and children her professional credentials fail to demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive family planning services for all men and women in need."  . . . .

And ThinkProgress chimes in with some further thoughts from Dr. Orr about the value of contraceptive devices: 

In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.

Wow, yet another great appointment - I am sure women everywhere feel better about their reproductive health already.  How did President Bush find someone so outstandingly qualified for this job - well - let us look at her credentials:  According to ThinkProgress, "Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University."

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