18 October 2007

"family planning"

my mom forwarded an email to me about the recent appointment of Susan Orr, PhD, to head the Federal Family Planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. the message was rather tantalizingly incendiary, and while my personal beliefs meshed with their assertions, i was curious to know whether the piece was slanted. so, thanks to Google, i did a little research.

the liberal slant on this appointment is that it's yet another huge step backwards for women's reproductive rights because Dr. Orr proposed elimination of contraception coverage for federal workers' insurance plans. the conservative slant is that it's a positive movement toward affording a greater amount of choice to individuals, particularly in the form of what components of health insurance coverage they choose to elect.

but what does this office of Federal Family Planning do, exactly? i wondered. so i looked them up. after a bit of digging, i discovered that title x is the main "to do" of this governmental unit. given this, theoretically, their mission is the following:

Program Priorities

1. Assuring ongoing high quality family planning and related preventive health services that will improve the overall health of individuals;

2. Assuring access to a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and related preventive health services that include natural family planning methods, infertility services, and services for adolescents; highly effective contraceptive methods; breast and cervical cancer screening and prevention that corresponds with nationally recognized standards of care; STD and HIV prevention education, counseling, and testing; extramarital abstinence education and counseling; and other preventive health services. The broad range of services does not include abortion as a method of family planning;

3. Encouraging participation of families, parents, and/or other adults acting in the role of parents in the decision of minors to seek family planning services, including activities that promote positive family relationships;

4. Improving the health of individuals and communities by partnering with community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), and other public health providers that work with vulnerable or at-risk populations;

5. Promoting individual and community health by emphasizing family planning andrelated preventive health services for hard-to-reach populations, such as uninsured or under-insured individuals, males, persons with limited English proficiency, adolescents, and other vulnerable or at-risk populations.

Sounds okay, right? I mean, I don't personally like the notion that they exclude institutions that do not provide abortion services while including faith-based institutions (seems to me that in order to be "neutral," they shouldn't allow either or should allow both), but I'm all for educating people about reproduction and providing health services, particularly in under served areas. I looked up their allocation of grant funds for FY 2006, and while some of the studies seem a bit unrealistic, others did seem like they'd result in some helpful information.

Here's the kicker, though. Any organization that applies for/receives a grant from the government under title X must agree to the following:
None of the funds appropriated in this Act may be made available to any entity under title X of the Public Health Service Act unless the applicant for the award certifies to the Secretary that it encourages family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services and that it provides counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities
Um, is it just me, or does that sound like any applicable program has to teach abstinence and take away the rights of minors in order to be funded? *sigh*

I get that people are concerned about the appointment of Dr. Orr to this organization, but based upon what I've read, it seems like most of the funding has already been restricted and directed toward the conservative abstinence-only, family-centered approach. If she continues to support the current administration's conservative views, i suspect we're in for more of the same--a decrease in funding and support for any program that advocates something other than abstinence.

This isn't quite what bugs me most about the appointment, though. What I want to know is why someone with degrees in politics is running a branch of government that should, at the very least, be run by someone with training and expertise in public health, if not medicine? How will she be able to make educated decisions about policy if she can only rely on her own opinions to guide her? I dare say, it would be like putting me--a pacifist--in charge of the Army! ;-)

At any rate, it all makes for interesting debate. What do you think?

As for me, well, I don't know yet. I've got to go read a good five chapters of embryology before I can even begin to form a foundational knowledge of what, exactly, "family planning" means....

1 comment:

Kristina said...

She headed up some agency that is funded by Focus on the Family. So right there I *know* I don't like her and can stop reading. Good for you for doing your research. You have more patience than I do. :)

a little disclaimer...

i'm a medical student. just a student. so please, don't take anything i say too seriously. remember that i was an english literature major as an undergrad, so there is much fiction to be found in these pages. do you think i'm telling a story about you or your illness? more likely, you're tapping into my sense of "everyman"--that is, your story resonates with what i write here because it's not so uncommon after all. need help? please, please go see your physician. <--i'm not her. yet. ;-)