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Another vicious Bush attack on women

| Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Food and Drug Administration this month rejected over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B. Know why• So more teenagers could get pregnant and possibly die from unwanted pregnancies.

The two pills that are packaged in this product have been approved as safe for years; Canada already has approved such sales without a prescription. But just like stem-cell research restrictions that will now shift vital scientific advances to producers overseas and/or delay approval of life-saving new advances in medicine, President Bush's appointees strike again.

An expert FDA panel previously voted, 23-4, to allow Plan B's nonprescription sale. The only dissidents included a Bush appointee -- David W. Hager, M.D. Who is Dr. Hager• Listen closely, ladies, as he is definitely not your friend.

'Repressive wunderkind'

On May 4, Bush announced that this repressive wunderkind would be named to head up this same committee that voted overwhelmingly to approve OTC sales of Plan B -- the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, which will soon have all its 11 members filled with Bush appointees. This appointment does not require congressional approval.

Hager's views of reproductive health care are far outside the mainstream of experts in reproductive technology. He is a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist who describes himself as "pro-life" and refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.

Hager also is the author of "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now." The book blends Biblical accounts of Christ healing women with case studies from Hager's practice. Talk about not separating church from state.

In the book Hager wrote with his wife -- "Stress and the Woman's Body" -- he suggests that women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome should seek help from reading the Bible and praying. As an editor and contributing author of "The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality Reproductive Technologies and the Family," Hager appears to have endorsed the medically inaccurate assertion that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient.

Religious motivation

Hager's mission is religiously motivated. He has an ardent interest in revoking approval for mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) as a safe and early form of medical abortion. Hager recently assisted the Christian Medical Association in a "citizen's petition" which calls upon the FDA to revoke its approval in the name of women's health.

Hager's desire to employ religious grounds rather than scientific merit would halt the development of mifepristone as a treatment for numerous medical conditions disproportionately affecting women, including breast and uterine cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, psychotic and bipolar depression and Cushing's syndrome.

In short, Hager's views are anti-family and anti-women's health and totally unscientific.

As Marc Kaufman reported in The Washington Post (on May 7), "The denial (of Plan B's OTC sale approval) was a major goal of social conservatives, including members of Congress who lobbied President Bush on the issue. Reproductive-rights advocates lobbied equally hard for its approval, and ... y they criticized the decision as misguided and a historic blot on the reputation of the FDA as a science-based agency."

Officially, as Kaufman reports, "In a letter to Barr Laboratories, the agency said the application was denied because only 29 of the 585 women studied by the company were younger than 16 -- a sample that was too small to assess safety."

That means the FDA would rather see a not-fully-developed-for-reproduction youngster undergo a possible life threatening pregnancy rather than safely terminate an unwanted one. But, of course, Bush appointees think all sexual activity begins when they mandate it and, when it doesn't, let's bring on the fury of moral retribution. Their version of moral, that is. After all if we kill a few kids, maybe they will get religion -- the new FDA version of religion.

So, ladies, that's the deal. This little attack will, amidst the turmoil of the Iraq fiasco, not get much traction in the media. But if you participated with the million-plus people who marched for women's lives in Washington as I did, you will know that there are women all over America who will know about this monstrosity of justice and react to rescind it in November.

Donald Collins, a free-lance writer living in Washington, D.C., has been active in family planning work for more than 40 years.

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