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Hager's appointment to a committee with huge implications for the public perhaps best illustrates the Bush administration's disdain for moderation and ambivalence to conflicts of interest; one should not lose sight of the fact that an increase in non-secular government and education policies will undoubtedly increase the power of religious special-interest groups, which, in turn, leads to direct funding and support of Bush and the Republican party. Voters have been smothered with post-election analysis on the importance of the "Evangelical" demographic pushing Bush to a record number of popular votes and to a record $360million campaign fund.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is the point that Hager's appointment makes about just how far Bush has had to dig to find malleable candidates for open positions or how un-seriously he's looking for qualified public servants, depending on how you look at it.
Bush's regressive policy on science and research has prompted an enormous outcry, not only from civil libertarians but also from the scientific community, with groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists - an independent nonprofit alliance of more than 100,000 concerned citizens and scientists - experiencing a huge upswing of interest. Even prominent figures that serve as icons for the Republican Party such as Nancy Regan and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have had to break with Bush's policy in the interest of public health. The tactics and policies of the Bush administration have led to a clear and widening division in the science world, and considering most scientists are scientists because of science itself, and not hereditary mysticism, the search for a qualified candidate has become much murkier.
The lack of legitimate oversight in these appointments was exemplified in a Time magazine article which reported that, before she brought Hager to the attention of the President, Linda Arey Skladany, a former drug-industry lobbyist and Bush family friend now a senior official with the FDA, passed over a number of highly qualified candidates. Two of the possibilities for appointment, Donald R. Mattison, a former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Michael F. Greene, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, came as recommendations from within the FDA.
So where exactly did Hager come from? It would appear that Hager, a former President of Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology and one of the "Best Doctors in America" crawled out of the mid-1990s - the last time he occupied either of those positions. Today, Hager is a part-time instructor with the University of Kentucky, where a spokesperson is quick to pint out that "Dr. Hager's affiliation with UK is on a part time basis," adding that Hager the Horrible, as he is also known, "works at Central Baptist [Hospital] and does not instruct at the University."
"There ought to be limits to freedom," George Bush once commented while in the process of becoming the most prolific executioner in the history of the American penal system, and it is that restrictive view on personal freedom that undoubtedly drew Bush to Hager. As a physician, Hager is one of a growing number of medical practitioners who implement their personal and private belief system into the care of patients who expect modern, scientific treatment. Numerous reports have cited complaints from Hager's patients, detailing how the doctor continually refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. It is possible, and in fact highly likely, that Hager's deferment to his personal views over a patient's best interests have facilitated unwanted childbirths.
Take, for instance, Hager's substantial record of opposing both abortions and emergency contraception, two procedures that are 100% legal in the United States that Hager will not uphold, despite his patients' right to request and receive them.
Another clear conflict is Hager's work with the Christian Medical Association, where he is leading the charge to persuade the FDA to withdraw its 1996 recommendation for approval of mifepristone, or RU-486, the "abortion pill," with a "citizens' petition." The committee that Hager has been petitioning was none other than the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, where he now resides as a member.
According to the Committee's Charter, members of the committee are responsible for evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drugs for obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. The committee is to be, by design, a panel of experts. Yet by no stretch of the imagination could Hager be considered an expert in the field, even though he has been a practicing OB-GYN for thirty years. The scope of the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee is almost entirely based on the approval or review of drugs, generally for women, based on scientific research, not the input of practitioners' personal views. The extent of Hager's research credentials is limited, with his name appearing on only seven published papers, most of which are concerned with protocols and treatments. To his credit, Hager did co-author the "Comparative study of mezlocillin versus cefotaxime single dose prophylaxis in patients undergoing vaginal hysterectomy" nearly two decades ago, but the most oft-cited references for Hager's body of work serves to illustrate his scientific ineptness. Stress and the Woman's Body, the book that Hager co-wrote with his wife, actually recommends that women suffering from premenstrual pain read the Bible for relief.
Although two years have passed since Hager joined the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, his appointment is still worthy of concern today. Hager, and several more unqualified ideologues like him, was essentially slipped into a freebie position by the Evangelical President. Even though groups such as the National Organization for Women rallied in opposition to Hager, his appointment was not subject to any review but instead an effortless placement of religious zealotry in a dangerous but traditionally out-of-the-spotlight position. Now, with countless church and industry henchmen installed throughout the ranks of government, the ultra-conservative Republican administration has complete control of the Legislative branch in addition to the offices of the Executive, cutting away the heart of the system of checks and balances afforded Americans by the Founding Fathers.
Additionally, much has been made in the media about an impending conservative takeover of the Supreme Court, the final leg upon which the assurances of freedom and democracy in America rest. This year's pet Neanderthal project, Bush's proposed amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriage, was defeated in a precariously balanced Congress that has since swung further to the right. If such an amendment, similar versions of which passed by wide margins in eleven states on November 2nd, were to be re-introduced the vote would undoubtedly be different. Many forget that most states without the constitutional amendment already have legislation that discriminates against same-sex couples, such as the recent Defense of Marriage Act in Iowa, which stipulates that "only a marriage between a male and a female is valid."
Abraham Lincoln's monumental Emancipation set a sterling example that public opinion cannot dictate basic human rights or morality, even in the majority, but justice has seemed to lose its hold in the struggle to overcome belief in America. With growing fanaticism over the idea that a single religious ideology such as Christianity should dictate public policy and the recent success of anti-choice interests in enacting legislation, a continued push for the repealing of abortion rights (which has already been done to women in the American military) and a curtailment of scientific research and reproductive education is more than likely.
With a leadership that answers first to a voice in its head and second to the rights of its citizens, presiding over a corporate and church-sponsored House and Senate, the likelihood of a significant conservative shift in the Supreme Court is all the more terrifying.
Although Chief Justice William Hubbs Rehnquist's ruling this month on the illegality of the military's interpretation of the rights of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay reinforced the value of judicial review, Rehnquist was at the time recovering from radiation and chemotherapy treatment for thyroid cancer. Three other justices have already been diagnosed with cancer and, aside from the passive Clarence Thomas, who is 56, the entire bench is past retirement age. With as many of four appointees to the Supreme Court possible in Bush's second term, during which he has vowed to spend the "political capital" that Evangelical voters empowered him with, the concepts of conflict of interest and separation of church and state are in peril of being vanquished from the halls of democracy.
The defining legislation of the Civil Rights and Women's movements that have set precedent over the past four decades will almost assuredly come under increasing fire during the next four years. With the government already stacked with unqualified, unelected and unaccountable officials like David Hager, a unilateral regression in the outlook on civil liberties in all three branches of the Federal government does not bode well for the future of the United States. SEE ALSO: www.infidels.org
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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