- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

Pro-choice groups and lawmakers are trying to prevent a Christian pro-life doctor from serving on a panel of the Food and Drug Administration, saying he mixes religion with medicine and opposes women's reproductive rights.
Even though no official nomination has been made, pro-life groups say Dr. W. David Hager, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist from Lexington, Ky., is highly qualified to serve on the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee and is being subjected to "religious profiling."
"Dr. Hager an opponent of women's reproductive rights who prescribes prayer and Scripture to treat women's health conditions has no place chairing a panel that has enormous power to influence women's health policy," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.
She told the Bush administration at a press conference yesterday: "Don't mix religion with medicine at the FDA."
The women's groups had sent a letter to President Bush complaining about Dr. Hager after Time magazine reported that the Kentucky physician would be named chairman of the committee. However, Bill Pierce, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said Dr. Hager is being considered for membership on the committee, but not as its chairman.
Mr. Pierce said Dr. Hager is highly qualified as a longtime practitioner and academic with many published works.
But NOW, Planned Parenthood and others said at the news conference that Dr. Hager should have no role whatsoever on the FDA panel, which makes recommendations on the safety and effectiveness of drugs used in obstetrics, gynecology and related areas.
The groups said Dr. Hager's religious beliefs and writings make it clear that he would be reluctant to approve new types of birth control and would work to have the chemical abortion drug known as RU-486 removed from the market.
"We believe he's going to make a move to limit the kind of contraception that women ought to have," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.
"We should have women's research based on science and not ideology or theology," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.
The committee post does not require congressional approval. But yesterday, various feminist and health groups also sent a letter to President Bush urging him not to pick Dr. Hager for one of the slots on the currently empty 11-member panel.
Mrs. Boxer sent a similar letter to the president in which she criticizes Dr. Hager for writing "extensively about the role of religion in healing," citing his books, "Stress and the Woman's Body" and "As Jesus Cared for Women."
Her letter also cites his representation of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), which urged the FDA to reverse its approval of RU-486.
David Stevens, executive director of CMA, said pro-choice groups are afraid Dr. Hager will expose the dangers of RU-486 and the FDA's dismissal of health concerns. He also defended Dr. Hager's writings.
"Dr. Hager is not saying prayer instead of medicine. He's saying prayer and medicine," Mr. Stevens said, adding that 99 percent of doctors agree religion has a positive effect on healing and 86 medical schools offer courses on the topic.
"Dr. W. David Hager is the latest victim of religious profiling," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council. "What NOW and other pro-abortion advocates really believe is that even if a candidate is well-qualified and a good doctor, they can't be an outspoken Christian and get appointed to the FDA or any other post that has the power to influence abortion policy."
"If being areligious is the criteria for public service, then most of our Founding Fathers would have been disqualified," Mr. Stevens said.
Dr. Hager works at the Women's Care Center in Lexington and serves on the Physician Resource Council for Focus on the Family. He has served as clinical research investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as an assistant surgeon with the U.S. Public Health Service.
He has written 41 journal publications, 14 book chapters and six books, and has served on the faculty at Emory University School of Medicine and the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. He was named one of the "Best Doctors for Women" by Good Housekeeping magazine in 1997.
"By stacking these important committees with right-wing idealogues instead of respected scientists, the administration puts the health and well-being of average Americans at risk," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.


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