Pro-Abortion Groups Fume Over Pro-Life FDA Appointees

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - The Bush administration's appointment of pro-life physicians to a federal health advisory panel on Christmas Eve prompted an outcry both from the nation's pro-abortion political lobby and from the country's largest owner of for-profit abortion facilities.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Mark McClellan, M.D., praised all of the new appointees to the agency's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.

"Each of these 11 physicians brings strong scientific and medical backgrounds to this important advisory group," said McClellan, the administration official in charge of the appointments. "Under Dr. [Linda] Guidice's stewardship, this panel will provide sound, science-based advice on reproductive health issues that will improve women's lives across the country."

The committee was convened to study recent reports concerning the safety and efficacy of hormone replacement therapy commonly prescribed to menopausal women. But the administration, which has delayed for months making the appointments, has the discretion to expand the committee's workload to include other reproductive issues.

Guidice is the chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility for the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Stanford University Medical Center. She holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D.

While pro-abortion groups had no comment on the choice of Guidice to chair the committee, at least three appointees drew verbal fire from abortion groups, with appointee Dr. W. David Hager, M.D. receiving the highest decibel criticism.

Hager serves as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, director of the residency program in obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) at Central Baptist Hospital, and he practices as a board certified OB-GYN at the Women's Care Center, all located in Lexington, Kentucky.

Gloria Feldt, president of abortion facilities owner Planned Parenthood, called Hager's choice "a frontal assault on reproductive rights."

"President Bush's brand of ideological science will be a nightmare for women's health," Feldt claimed in a statement issued after the announcement. "If allowed to continue unchecked, they [sic] will surely turn back the clock on all reproductive health technologies."

The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), did not issue a statement after Hager's selection, but had "warned" of the possibility of his choice in the weeks leading up to the appointment.

"Hager is the wrong choice for this important committee," NARAL wrote in the introduction to a so-called "fact sheet" about Hager on its website. "Unfortunately, his potential appointment is part of a pattern from the Bush Administration of supplanting science and objectivity with anti-choice politics and ideology."

Abortion rights supporters object to Hager's memberships in various Christian medical groups, his support for abstinence-only education and his call further testing of the abortion drug RU-486.

"As a member of the Christian Medical Association, Dr. Hager helped to draft and circulate a petition calling the FDA to reverse its decision approving RU 486," NARAL wrote in its "fact sheet" about Hager.

"While the petition purports to be concerned with women's health," NARAL continued, "Dr. Hager betrayed that his true concern is for the fetus in one press statement."

However, the statement NARAL challenged was actually made, not to the press, but in an Aug. 2002 petition filed with the FDA on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) regarding RU-486.

"I have a passion for the health and well-being of women and their unborn/newborn offspring," Hager wrote. "The use of any medication that puts the life and health of either of these individuals at risk implores me to call for a thorough and exhaustive evaluation.

"RU 486 is such an agent," he concluded, "posing risks to women and potentially to their unborn babies."

Hager is also a member of the Physicians Resource Council (PRC), which NARAL criticized as a "radical right organization" because of the mission statement of PRC's parent organization, Focus on the Family: "To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family."

NARAL also condemned Hager's July 1996 statement to a Senate subcommittee that abstinence is "the only medically safe and morally responsible choice for unmarried persons."

Wendy Wright, senior policy director with Concerned Women for America, called the "smear campaign" against Hager "shameful" in an Oct. 18 statement.

"Dr. Hager is eminently qualified and highly respected by his peers and the women he treats," Wright said. "To attack a highly credentialed doctor over his incorporating Christian faith into the practice of medicine is nothing less than religious bigotry."

In addition to his practice and teaching credentials, Hager has served as an assistant surgeon with the U.S. Public Health Service and a clinical research investigator for the Centers for Disease Control. He has delivered more that 5500 babies and was voted one of the "Best Doctors for Women" by the readers of two women's magazines, once in 1997 and again in 2002.

Planned Parenthood's Feldt also criticized the appointment of Dr. Joseph Barney Stanford, M.D., an associate professor with the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Stanford has described the "morning after pill" as an abortion drug.

Dr. Susan Crockett, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and director of maternity services at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital was targeted by Planned Parenthood because of her service as an at-large board member of the AAPLOG.

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See earlier stories:

Bush FDA Nominee Cites Safety Concerns Over RU-486 (Nov. 20, 2002)

Abortion Rights Groups Target Doc On Religious, RU-486 Views (Oct. 15, 2002)