Bush in Your Bedroom
By Heather Wokusch, HeatherWokusch.com. Posted December 29, 2007.
The ten worst appointees for reproductive freedom.
“On September 11, we saw clearly that evil exists in this world, and that it does not value life … Now we are engaged in a fight against evil and tyranny to preserve and protect life.” – George W. Bush in 2002, linking abortion rights with terrorism, as he declared the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to be “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”
Bush has used his Oval Office years to limit reproductive freedom and stack critical posts with right-wingers bent on rolling back the clock.
And now it appears yet another reactionary Bush appointee is on track to get a lifetime position as a federal judge…
Bush nominated Wyoming lawyer and former state representative Richard Honaker to the US District Court back in March, but the reproductive rights group NARAL believes he may soon get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Honacker authored a 1991 bill which would have outlawed most abortions, and has said that abortion is “wrong, and no one should have the right to do what is wrong.”
If the nomination goes through, Honacker will stay on the bench long after Bush is out of office, and he’ll join a growing list of appointees eager to regulate your sexuality. A Top Ten list, so far…
1. Patricia Funderburk Ware
In 2001, Bush named abstinence-only proponent Patricia Funderburk Ware to be Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Ware’s qualifications for the job of promoting “effective prevention of HIV disease” included criticizing condom use and lobbying against HIV/AIDS being in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Two years later, Ware recommended that a controversial character named Jerry Thacker join the PACHA panel. Thacker has called AIDS a “gay plague” and homosexuality a “deathstyle.” Amid public protest, Thacker soon withdrew his nomination and Ware left her PACHA post.
2. Tom Coburn
Bush nominated then-Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to be PACHA co-chair in 2003. Coburn supports mandatory reporting to public authorities of the names of those testing positive for HIV/AIDS. He favors “the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life.”
According to Coburn, the gay community “has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power… That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That’s a gay agenda.” Who else would you want advising the Bush administration on AIDS?
3. David Hager
Hager was one of three religious conservatives that Bush put on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in 2002 and only public outcry prevented him from becoming its chairperson. Critics argued that in his gynecology practice, Hager had refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women and had recommended Scripture readings to alleviate headaches and premenstrual syndrome. A memo which Hager wrote helped persuade the FDA to overrule its own advisory panel in 2004, thus preventing the emergency contraceptive “Plan B” from being made more easily available. Critics assailed the FDA’s decision as ignoring scientific evidence, but in Hager’s assessment: “Once again, what Satan meant for evil, God turned into good.” A downright criminal side of Hager emerged when his former wife went public with the fact that he had been emotionally, physically and sexually abusive during their 32-year marriage, forcibly sodomizing her on a regular basis. As Hager’s ex-wife told The Nation magazine in May 2005, “it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible.”
4. & 5. Lester Crawford and Norris Alderson
As Acting Commissioner of the FDA, Lester Crawford was notorious for blocking over-the-counter access to emergency contraception (EC).
Democratic senators initially halted Crawford’s confirmation to head the FDA, but gave approval in June 2005 after he promised to take action on EC by September 1, 2005. Once sworn in, however, Crawford stalled yet again, despite the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee’s having voted 23 to 4 in favor of making EC available over-the-counter. Dr. Susan Wood, the well-respected head of the FDA Women’s Health Office, soon resigned in protest – and that’s when things got really bizarre. Weeks after Wood stepped down, the FDA Women’s Health Office sent out a mass email announcing that she would be replaced by Dr. Norris Alderson, who was duly listed on the FDA site as: “Acting Director, Office of Women’s Health, Associate Commissioner for Science.” One small problem. Alderson is a veterinarian.
The administration appointed an animal doctor to be in charge of women’s health. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it? After predictable outcry, the FDA tried to pretend that Alderson had never been appointed in the first place. Recipients of the initial mass emailing, of course, knew otherwise. To make things even weirder, Crawford himself suddenly resigned as head of the FDA in September 2005 (just months after having been confirmed), amid allegations of not having properly disclosed his financial holdings to the Senate.
In August 2006, the FDA finally approved making the EC “Plan B” available over-the counter to consumers 18 years and older.
6. John G. Roberts
Progressives balked in September 2005 when Bush put forward far-right extremist John G. Roberts to head the US Supreme Court. In Robert’s illustrious career, he had fought against minority voting rights, argued against women’s educational rights, and tried to limit the rights of women prisoners. A legal brief Roberts contributed to said that Roe vs. Wade was “wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
Roberts became Chief Justice within weeks of his nomination, and as expected, has dragged the Supreme Court to the right. In the past two years, for example, the Roberts’ court upheld the constitutionality of a federal anti-abortion law (the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Act) and decreased public school students’ rights to free speech.
7. Samuel Alito
In January 2006, the stridently anti-choice Samuel Alito was sworn in to the US Supreme Court. Alito had previously argued that the strip-search of a mother and ten-year old girl without a warrant was constitutional and that women should be required to tell their husbands before getting an abortion. Alito stated in a 1985 application to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General: “I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion.” For good measure, he added, “I am and always have been a conservative.”
Alito replaced the moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the nation’s high court. The obvious shift to the right caused by the addition of Roberts and Alito led Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to observe: “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.”
8. Paul Bonicelli
In October 2005, Paul Bonicelli was appointed as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the US international development agency’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA). Bonicelli’s main prior claim to fame was being Dean of Academic Affairs at the fundamentalist Patrick Henry College, where the Student Honor Code mandates: “I will reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage.” Patrick Henry College also has a 10-part Statement of Faith which says that hell is a place where “all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.” Bonicelli’s current office at DCHA is responsible for: “strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights; promoting more genuine and competitive elections and political processes; increasing development of a politically active civil society; and implementing a more transparent and accountable governance.” In other words, a guy who thinks that non-believers “shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity” has been put in charge of promoting human rights across the world.
9. Eric Keroak
In 2006, Bush tapped Eric Keroack to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Health and Human Services Department. Keroack opposes contraception, has described premarital sex as “modern germ warfare,” and espouses the bizarre, unscientific belief that casual sex depletes “bonding” hormones. He was previously medical director of a Christian pregnancy counseling service which described contraception as “demeaning to women.” And that’s who the Bush administration chose to oversee the distribution of $283 million in family planning funds for the nation.
Keroack resigned in March 2007, after state Medicaid officials began taking action against his private medical practice.
10. Susan Orr
Keroack was replaced by Susan Orr, who had been “Senior Director for Marriage and Families” at the anti-gay, anti-reproductive rights Family Research Council. In her prior career, Orr had opposed the emergency contraception RU-486 and gushed that Bush was “pro-life… in his heart” for withholding funds from international family planning groups which even discussed abortion. Orr has claimed that contraception is “not a medical necessity.” Yet she now is in charge of facilitating access to both contraception and sex education for low-income families across the nation.
While presidential candidate George W. Bush insisted that he would put “competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy,” his judicial and other appointments have proven otherwise. And these appointees will not leave office when Bush does.
Note: this column is partially excerpted from The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now.