Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Because I'm Fair-Minded. . . .

I'm quoting an article in full from the Tennessee Right to Life website.

Pro-Life Doctor May Join FDA Drug Review Panel

October 13, 2002—Washington, DC: A pro-life gynecologist from Lexington, Kentucky, who is lobbying the federal government to rescind its approval of the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 is in line for a position on a key FDA advisory committee on women's health issues.

Pro-abortion groups are furious that the Bush administration is considering W. David Hager for an appointment to the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee.

The panel advises the Food and Drug Administration and made the recommendation that eventually led to government approval of RU-486. Hager's pro-abortion critics describe him as an ideologue who has no credibility in the medical or scientific community.

As evidence, they point to a book that Hager authored with his wife, Linda, that stresses "the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life" and puts a strong spiritual emphasis on easing women's suffering from health problems.

"He's more interested in ideology than in science or medicine," claimed Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Hager did not respond to requests for an interview. However, his defenders say he is a well-respected physician and researcher who is hardly an extremist.

Hager is a part-time professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and supervises the residency program at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital.

"He is an outstanding and highly qualified candidate," said Bill Pierce, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One published report said that Hager would serve as chairman of the panel, but Pierce insisted that no decision has been made on Hager's appointment.

Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black said Hager would be a good addition to the committee. Black said she sought Hager's advice earlier this year when the Northern Kentucky health board was debating whether to reject federal family planning money. Hager's position on that issues shows that he is someone who "looks at all of the medical facts and considers all of the data before he makes a judgment call," she said.

Hager has been active in the pro-life movement for years and is probably one of the best-known obstetrician-gynecologists in Lexington, said Frank Schwendeman, president of the Kentucky Right to Life Association.

He also has worked to reduce pregnancy among teen-agers and has promoted the abstinence-only approach to sex education. In addition, he was one of the doctors who participated in a federal study last year that questioned the effectiveness of condoms in protecting against sexually-transmitted diseases.

Emory Wilson, dean of the UK College of Medicine, said Hager's contributions "to the literature and to our knowledge of infectious diseases in women have been significant and respected by others in the field."

In August, Hager was one of several physicians in the Christian Medical Association who petitioned the FDA to shelve the RU-486 "abortion pill" pending a review of the approval process and complications attributed to the drug.

Pro-abortion supporters contend it would be a conflict for Hager to serve as chairman of the FDA's advisory committee at the same time he is pushing the agency to shelve RU-486.

The appointment doesn't require confirmation by Congress.

"For someone who doesn't trust or support women's rights to reproductive health care ... to be in a position to make critical decisions about the future of health care is quite frightening," said Beth Wilson, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

Feldt and other abortion advocates say Hager's appointment is part of a pattern by the Bush administration to fill key advisory positions with people for whom ideology is more important than medicine or science.

Other appointees they cited as examples include Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a founder and former president of the National Right to Life Committee who has been asked to serve on a new panel on clinical research trial safety; and Dr. Tom Coburn, a pro-life former Republican congressman from Oklahoma who was named in January co-chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. Coburn has questioned the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Now, according to other sources (Time magazine and CBS news), Dr. Hager refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. Moreover, Hager's book on women's reproductive health prescribed specific bits of Scripture as a cure for PMS. This seems inadequate, to say the least, but could be effective if coupled with a good diagnosis and whatever drugs are necessary. The FDA offered several candidates (who were rejected) and also asked that this appointment be temporary, but Bish insisted that it be for the full four years. At least one published report has claimed that Dr. Hager would be the chairman of the committee.

In searching out the pro-life point of view, I discovered the other appointments mentioned in the final paragraph, which I hadn't heard about before.

I'm not going to pretend to be shocked that beliefs play a role in politics and in the government functions (like the FDA) that should be more about substance than ideology. I refuse to say that a pro-choice candidate would not be a political choice. But I will say that this is bad news for women who need reproductive counseling before they're married (or after they're divorced?), who need RU-486, who want to be able to prevent or end an unwanted pregnancy.

Abortion is an agonizing choice. But sometimes it's the right choice.

Ah well. This may all be a moot point, since Dubbya is threatening to nuke anybody who has dangerous weapons. Well, maybe not just anybody. Anybody *else* — all those rogue states who go around attacking weaker people unprovoked.

Bush reminds me of the drunk sprawled on all fours under the streetlight. When a cop comes up and asks, "What are you doing?" the drunk says, "Looking for my car keys."

"Oh, you dropped them here?"

"No, I dropped them across the street. But I couldn't find them in the dark over there."

Iraq is not the enemy this time. But Saddam Hussein is right under the streetlight. Osama Bin Laden is still lurking in the dark. And I bet he's laughing.

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