Revolution #71, December 3, 2006
Bush Puts Anti-Abortion/Anti-Birth Control Doctor in Charge of Funding for Family Planning
On November 16, George W. Bush announced that the next Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs will be Dr. Eric Keroack. The U.S. Office of Population Affairs advises the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Health on reproductive health issues, including adolescent pregnancy, family planning, and sterilization, as well as other population issues.
Keroack, an anti-abortion, anti-birth control obstetrician/gynecologist, is the medical director of A Woman's Concern, a Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Massachusetts. In 2005, this CPC got $1.5 million in state funds to teach abstinence-only education in schools.
What are the results of such abstinence-only programs?
Proponents of abstinence-only programs like Keroack argue that this is the only proven and effective safeguard against unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But in fact, there is evidence that such programs not only do not address problems of family planning and STDs – but actually make such problems worse.
In a recent teach-in sponsored by the Bush Crimes Commission and World Can't Wait, Cristina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, said: “Let’s just look at the results of when Bush was Governor and invested unprecedented sums in abstinence-only in Texas. The result? Texas scored dead last in the nation, 50th out of 50, in the decline in teen births. In fact, while the rest of the nation enjoyed dramatic declines in teen pregnancy, by the end of Bush’s term as Governor, Texas had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country exceeded by only four other states, including Florida, which his brother governed using the same approach.”
And Page also exposes how abstinence-only programs do not result in lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
“[W]hen Columbia and Yale researchers studied kids in these virginity pledge programs and compared them to kids not in virginity pledge programs…the virgin pledgers had the same rate of STDs as non-pledgers. The only difference being that virgin pledgers were six times more likely to have oral sex, male virginity pledgers were four times more likely to have anal sex, the virgin pledgers were also less likely to use a condom, more likely to spread the STDs they have because they don’t get treated for them.”
Page points out: “One in four federal dollars for abstinence-only money goes to pro-life groups. And probably the reason these programs fail is because those designing them are not interested in reducing teen pregnancy, they're interested in proselytizing to children about their God. Take the virginity pledge programs, one called the Silver Ring Thing, got over a million dollars in federal funding. Its executive director explained, 'we’re not really putting our energy into abstinence as much as we’re putting it into faith—abstinence is the tool that we’re using to reach children.'”
These studies and these results are not a secret. It is an established fact that abstinence-only programs do not prevent STDs or unintended pregnancies. What then, is the real underlying agenda of abstinence-only advocates like Keroack, who argue dishonestly that abstinence is a valid form of birth control and prevention of STDs?
Keroack and his CPC are not only against abortion, but all forms of birth control.
Keroack: Anti-Birth Control, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Science
A major part of Keroack’s new job will be to oversee federal funding for Title X, which provides funding for over 4,000 family planning clinics, mostly serving low-income women. In other words, Bush is putting an anti-birth control, anti-condom activist in charge of providing—actually denying—birth control to women.
Keroack promotes absurd anti-scientific arguments. For example, in 2003 he gave a talk to the National Abstinence Clearinghouse where he said that women who have too much premarital sex with multiple partners will end up causing a vicious hormonal cycle that destroys their brain's ability to use oxytocin, a hormone that he says is responsible for all bonding in human relationships—so they will be unable to bond with future partners or children and could even turn into sex addicts."
Keroack bases much of this argument on a handful of studies of prairie voles (a species of rodent).
Rebecca Turner, a professor at Alliant International University, told the Boston Globe that Keroack had misrepresented her studies to back up his “oxytocin” claim, and that “This is complete pseudoscience.” Karen Bales, a researcher at UC Davis who studies prairie voles, said there is “absolutely no evidence” for Keroack's claims. And even the co-author of Keroack's paper, Dr. John Diggs, admitted that "Without a doubt the conclusions we came to were inferences that scientists would never come to.” Nonetheless, Keroack’s complete nonsense is being offered as “scientific evidence” to support the abstinence-only movement.
But the effect of his crusade as part of the whole Christian fascist movement to ban abortion and all forms of birth control, is deadly serious and dangerous.
Keroack's nomination is not subject to Congressional approval—he's in. For all those who hoped that the recent elections meant that Bush would have to pause on implementing his whole reactionary social program, including the determined effort to outlaw abortion, this nomination should serve as a wake-up call.
Keroack's Real Agenda
Keroack has spoken at conferences of the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion, anti-contraception organization. And he was the one who came up with the requirement that federally funded abstinence-only education programs can only talk about birth control to say that it doesn't work. (One refutation of this blatant lie: the birth control pill is 99% effective against pregnancy.)
Abstinence-only education programs are mainly aimed at teenagers. And Christian conservatives and fundamentalists who run these programs preach in these programs that the main purpose of sex is for procreation and that it wrong to engage in sex outside of marriage and the traditional family.
The website of Keroack's Crisis Pregnancy Center explains: "A Woman's Concern is a Christian mission to women in pregnancy distress, especially those considering abortion due to lack of information and support. We provide competent and caring services that include free pregnancy tests, sonograms, peer counseling and intervention, prenatal support, material aids for mother and baby, employment referral, housing assistance and opportunities to learn about healthy sexual values, mature relationships, dating guidelines, and how to establish a vital relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church."
And then, under the subhead “The Dignity of Women,” is what Keroack's CPC sees as women's role in society: “We believe that the role of women as child bearers is ordained of God and worthy of the special support needed in overcoming the fears caused by an unplanned pregnancy, all the more important since abortion is inherently destructive and demeaning to women."
This is an example of reactionary religious doctrine in the service of a morality that wants to take society backwards. First of all, the role of women in society is not ordained by some “God.” There is no god. And there is no god or any other supernatural force, or any kind of “natural” force that has mandated various roles in society. Historically, with the development of class society and the patriarchy, the actual people who did mandate the role of women in society were men who wanted to ensure control of their property and enforce property relations in general. This development of the family – and the role of women within it -- was connected to changes in the whole way that people in society related to each other in producing the necessities of life, or the production relations. It is in this context that the main role of women was “ordained to be” to bear and raise children. And this whole set-up was sanctified by religious doctrine and ideology. These production relations have continued to change through the ages, but the oppression of women and the ideology that justifies it have up until now been maintained. The basis has now been laid to do away with these oppressive institutions and ideas – but this will ultimately require further transformation of production relations and, to do that, a political revolution leading ultimately to communism. For a fuller communist analysis of this question, see: “On the Position on Homosexuality in the New Draft Programme” by the RCP and “Why George Bush defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman…or Why the family hasn’t always been like this…and why the future holds something far better,” by Li Onesto, both available at revcom.us.
Secondly, the sexual morality that people and society need is not something “ordained” by religion but is a question of what corresponds to the struggle to bring about a better society, to the emancipation of humanity. And a liberating sexual morality that corresponds to where society is today and needs to go must put first and foremost, the emancipation of women and the struggle to bring about non-exploitative relations between men and women. On that basis, we should uphold women's right to choose if and when they are going to have children. Women (and men) should have the right to engage in sexual relations that are NOT aimed at creating children. And society should have an obligation to assist in the care and raising of children.
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