Ouster of abstinence advocate sought

November 22, 2006|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski was among 14 Democratic senators who urged the Bush administration yesterday to dismiss an abstinence advocate who has been named to a federal family planning post.

Mikulski signed a letter protesting last week's appointment of Dr. Eric Keroack and asking the administration to withdraw it.

"Unfortunately, this appointment is another example of the Administration allowing ideology to trump science, and it could jeopardize vital services on which large numbers of women and families depend," the senators wrote. The letter was distributed by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

Keroack began work Monday as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, a spokeswoman said. In the job, he oversees birth control, pregnancy testing and other health services for 5 million poor Americans.

The Department of Health and Human Services agency provides $283 million annually for contraceptive supplies and information, and $31 million to promote abstinence among teens, according to the agency's Web site.

Previously, Keroack worked for a chain of Christian pregnancy clinics in eastern Massachusetts that discouraged birth control, and he has spoken and written in favor of abstinence, according to news reports.

Christina Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said Keroack performed only ultrasounds on pregnant women for the clinics and spent 80 percent of his time in a private obstetrics and gynecology practice.

While in private practice, Keroack prescribed contraceptives, and he assured federal health officials that he would carry out all duties and responsibilities of his new job, Pearson said. She said his 20 years of work have shown him to be "caring, highly skilled."

His appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

jonathan.rockoff@baltsun.com

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