Justice Can Be Poetic

Putting a Christian antiabortion zealot in charge of the nation's Population Affairs Office and its $283 million annual budget (as President Bush did last November) would be tantamount to anointing pro-choice poster-woman Kate Michelman as pope. Either would constitute a provocative move designed to offend most of the people to whose needs the organization in question is supposed to minister.

Nobody's suggesting Ms. Michelman, longtime former head of NARRAL, should become pope. But the Bush administration did have the gall to name a Christian, "crisis pregnancy," director from Massachusetts head of the Population Affairs Office at the Department of Health and Human Services, giving over control to federally financed, family planning services, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and screening for breast and cervical cancer.

All that's blissfully behind us now, as Eric Keroack, the zealot in question, resigned last night. Keroack's office would reveal only that the Massachusetts Medicaid office took some sort of mysterious action against his private medical practice in Massachusetts. This move comes only a scant five months after President Bush placed him in a job for which he was singularly unfit.

In January of this year, a New York Times op-ed piece said the following of Keroack: "In the PowerPoint presentation that has cemented his reputation, he makes the case that premarital sex suppresses the hormone oxytocin, thereby impairing one's ability to forge a successful long-term relationship. If forced to mince words, you might call this fanciful or speculative. Otherwise, you'd call it wacko."

In this space two months before that piece was written, I wrote: "Yet just yesterday, the Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services announced the selection of an extreme right-wing "Christian pregnancy-counseling organization" chief to lead the department's family-planning and population programs. The Washington Post reports that OB-GYN Eric Keroack 'regards the distribution of contraceptives as demeaning to women.' "

Keroack is not a scientist, or a scientist first, as doctors should be. He's devoted his career to proselytizing, putting that ahead of patient care. The most amazing thing about his appointment is that it was made right after the November elections, as if the Bush administration not only ignored the trouncing voters delivered to the GOP at the polls but flouted it.

Time wounds all heels.

By Bonnie Erbe