Break the Chain Hager the Horrible

Created 2/15/2003, updated 11/13/2004 (11/13/2004) President George W. Bush is well-known for being a very religious man and a leader who often relies on his faith to guide his actions. In the e-mail world, this makes some very nervous, often because they aren't given all facts. This chain letter is outdated and packed with contested claims.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

President Bush has announced his plan to select Dr. W. David Hager to head up the Food and Drug administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. The committee has not met for more than two years, during which time its charter has lapsed. As a result, the Bush Administration is tasked with filling all eleven positions with new members.

This position does not require Congressional approval. The FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee makes crucial decisions on matters relating to drugs used in the practice of obstetrics, gynecology and related specialties, including hormone therapy, contraception, treatment for infertility, and medical alternatives to surgical procedures for sterilization and pregnancy termination.

Dr. Hager's views of reproductive health care are far outside the mainstream of setback for reproductive technology. Dr. Hager is a practicing OB/GYN who describes himself as "pro-life" and refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. Hager is the author of "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now." The book blends biblical accounts of Christ healing women with case studies from Hager's practice.

In the book Dr. Hager wrote with his wife, entitled "Stress and the Woman's Body," he suggests that women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome should seek help from reading the bible and praying. As an editor and contributing author of "The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies and the Family," Dr. Hager appears to have endorsed the medically inaccurate assertion that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient. Hagar's mission is religiously motivated. He has an ardent interest in revoking approval for mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) as a safe and early form of medical abortion. Hagar recently assisted the Christian Medical Association in a "citizen's petition" which calls upon the FDA to revoke its approval of mifepristone in the name of women's health.

Hager's desire to overturn mifepristone's approval on religious grounds rather than scientific merit would halt the development of mifepristone as a treatment for numerous medical conditions disproportionately affecting women, including breast cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, psychotic depression, bipolar depression and Cushing's syndrome.

Women rely on the FDA to ensure their access to safe and effective drugs for reproductive health care including products that prevent pregnancy. For some women, such as those with certain types of diabetes and those undergoing treatment for cancer pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition.

We are concerned that Dr. Hager's strong religious beliefs may color his assessment of technologies that are necessary to protect women's lives or to preserve and promote women's health. Hager's track record of using religious beliefs to guide his medical decision-making makes him a dangerous and inappropriate candidate to serve as chair of this committee. Critical drug public policy and research must not be held hostage by antiabortion politics.

Members of this important panel should be appointed on the basis of science and medicine, rather than politics and religion. American women deserve no less.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. SEND THIS TO EVERY PERSON WHO IS CONCERNED ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS.

2. OPPOSE THE PLACEMENT OF THIS MAN BY CONTACTING THE WHITE HOUSE AND TELL THEM HE IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE ON ANY LEVEL.

Please email President Bush at president@whitehouse.gov or call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 and say "I oppose the appointment of Dr. Hager to the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Mixing religion and medicine is unacceptable. Using the FDA to promote a political agenda is inappropriate and seriously threatens all women's health."

Do it.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

In early October, 2002, Time magazine and the New York Times both reported that the Bush Administration planned to appoint Dr. W. David Hager, a Kentucky Gynocologist, as the head of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) panel on women's reproductive issues. The news got instant responses from the National Organization for Women, the Coalition for Women's Health and other advocates for reproductive rights because of Hager's history of mixing science with religion in his practice.

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On October 17, CBS news reported that, though he was being considered to serve on the committee, he was not in line to head it up. They also noted that the committee would be influential, but would make no binding decisions. On Christmas Eve, 2002, the FDA announced the appointment of 11 physicians to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs. Hager was among the doctors selected, but Dr. Linda C. Giudice, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University Medical Center chairs the committee. In June 2004, Hager's appointment was extended for an additional year. This chain letter resurfaced in November 2004, presumably because President George W. Bush's re-election led many to believe this was a developing story and not the done-deal that it is.

Hager is indeed a very conservatively oriented physician. However, since his initial appointment, Hager has publicly denied many of the claims made in the chain letter above. Specifically:

  • While he prescribes abstinence, he does not refuse to prescribe birth control to unmarried women (a few of his former employees have claimed that they personally witnessed him refuse patient's requests for birth control, but we don't know all of the circumstances in those cases).

  • He claims his opposition to the so-called abortion drug, RU-486, is less about morals and more about concern that the drug is unsafe, claiming it was given a fast-track to FDA approval.

Hager has already served nearly two years on the committee and will remain for one more. It remains to be seen if his service will have the deleterious effects on women's rights this chain letter claims he will, but we do know that the message was written before his term began and can safely be labeled "outdated." Sending letters and making calls to the White House are unlikely to have much influence in preventing an appointment that is a two-year old 'done deal.' Break this chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: Armchair Activism
References: TruthOrFiction.com, Snopes.com, FDA - Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs Roster, Time, New York Times, CBS News, FDA 2002 News Release

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