In the wake of what he conceeded was “a thumping,” President Bush promised a renewed emphasis on bipartisanship, and a good-faith effort to work across the aisle with the new Democratic majority.
Activists on both sides of that aisle remain skeptical. The former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Harold Koh, now Dean of Yale Law School, spoke at a conference held just a few days after the midterm elections. Asked about the odds of bipartisanship during the remainder of Bush’s presidency, he quoted the psychiatrist who was asked to change a light bulb: “First, the light bulb really has to want to change.”
If Bush’s actions in the week following the election are any indication, change is a distant goal. First, the President sent John Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. Ambassador back to the Senate, where he had to know it would be dead on arrival.
For sheer chutzpah, however, nothing surpasses Bush’s appointment of Eric Keroack to head up family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. In his new capacity, according to HHS, he will oversee $283 million dollars in annual family-planning grants “designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them, with priority given to low-income persons.”
Dr. Keroack previously worked at a Christian “Crisis Pregnancy” clinic that forbid its employees from referring patients to birth control providers. He has been widely quoted as saying that the distribution of contraceptives “demeans women” and “increases out-of-wedlock pregnancy.” He opposes not just abortion, but also birth control and sex education.
If individuals believe that birth control is immoral, that is their prerogative. Putting an implacable foe of family planning in charge of the
As many abortion opponents have noted, the most effective way to reduce abortion is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Even if abstinence-based sex education programs were effective—and a multitude of studies suggests otherwise—they are manifestly inappropriate for married couples who want to plan their families. Rigid proponents of abstinence-based procreation doctrines are equally inappropriate choices to run government family planning offices.
The moral and religious beliefs of Americans are incredibly diverse. The genius of our constitutional system is that by keeping government out of arguments about religious doctrine and observance—by confining government to matters that require communal action—we have largely averted the sectarian disputes that have torn other nations apart. We have made bipartisanship and cooperation possible.
But first, we have to want to cooperate.