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(Why) Did Susan Orr Resign from Population Affairs Post?

May 27, 2008

Last week, Susan Orr, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, resigned after less than a year in the post overseeing family planning programs for the Department of Health and Human Services. At present, no coverage of Orr’s resignation has been spotted in any mainstream media outlet, despite the controversy and coverage her initial appointment generated. The Office of Population Affairs website contains no mention of the resignation, with the last news update being Orr’s appointment from Acting Deputy to Deputy in February of this year. Think Progress had reportedly obtained confirmation of the resignation, although calls placed by other organizations have gone unreturned.

Orr was widely criticized when appointed to fill the role overseeing contraceptive services to low income individuals, as she previously served as Senior Director for Social Policy at the Family Research Council, an organization that “maintains that contraceptive-based or comprehensive sex education is destructive.” Orr herself has made statements indicating that she is no supporter of access to contraception. According to the Washington Post, “Orr applauded a Bush proposal to stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees to cover a broad range of birth control. ‘We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,’ said Orr, then an official with the Family Research Council.” She has also stated that contraception is not a medical necessity, despite clear evidence to the contrary for many, many women.

I’d like to know why Orr resigned just as conservative groups are pushing for a Domestic Family Planning Gag rule, which would prevent organizations (such as Planned Parenthood) that provide family planning/contraception services from receiving Title X funds if they also provide abortions or abortion referrals. The Family Research Council, for whom Orr worked on social policy, has been the major player in efforts to convince Bush to instate such a gag rule prior to leaving office. As Amie Newman asked prior to the resignation:

“The questions to explore are: was this all a part of a larger strategy conceived of by the FRC once Susan Orr was appointed as head of the Title X program? How could they not have thought, at that time, they would have a real opportunity to inflict severe damage on this public health program with their former colleague and leader at the helm?”

I’d add to that list, in light of the resignation, “Did Susan Orr step down because her Family Research Council ties created a conflict of interest that would garner unwanted media attention for FRC’s gag rule efforts and potentially hinder their proposed restrictions of Title X?” I’m just cynical enough to believe that it’s entirely possible.

More:
RHReality Check – Anti-Family Planning Org’s Unholy Alliance, Bush Ally Susan Orr Resigns Amid Controversy

Think Progress – Bush Family Planning Appointee Who Called Contraceptives Part Of The ‘Culture Of Death’ Resigns

National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association – Statement on the Resignation of Dr. Susan Orr and Possible Changes to Title X

NARAL’s Blog for Choice – Bush Appointee To HHS Family-Planning Post, Susan Orr, Resigns and More on Orr

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2008 12:48 pm

    I think it is entirely possible, and hardly cynical. The Bush administration has stacked the positions at regulatory agencies with political cronies who have no interest in carrying out the position, but in some cases would rather sabotage the cause they are supposed to help. Susan Orr was one glaring example of that, and she was just paving the way for the Family Research Council.

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