A pro-life doctor tipped for appointment to an influential government health panel is being opposed by pro-abortion groups and lawmakers who claim he mixes faith with medicine.
According to The Washington Times, Dr. W. David Hager, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist from Lexington, Ky., has not been officially nominated to serve on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. But pro-life groups say Hager has been subjected to "religious profiling," despite being highly qualified, since his name was linked to the panel.
As "an opponent of women's reproductive rights who prescribes prayer and Scripture to treat women's health conditions," Hager has "no place chairing a panel that has enormous power to influence women's health policy," said National Organization for Women (NOW) president Kim Gandy.
Her organization recently sent a letter to President Bush complaining about Hager, following a "Time" magazine report that Hager would be named chairman of the committee. However, Department of Health and Human Services officials said Hager is being considered for membership on the 11-member committee, not as its chairman. The committee post does not require congressional approval.
But NOW, Planned Parenthood and other feminist groups said 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 Hager's Christian 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 RU-486 removed from the market, the "Times" reported. "We believe he's going to make a move to limit the kind of contraception that women ought to have," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has criticized 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."
U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., added: "We should have women's research based on science and not ideology or theology."
Hager has also been scrutinized for his representation of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), which urged the FDA to reverse its approval of RU-486. CMA executive director David Stevens defended Hager's writings, saying pro-abortion groups are afraid Hager will expose the dangers of RU-486.
"Dr. Hager is not saying prayer instead of medicine. He's saying prayer and medicine," said Stevens, adding that 99 percent of doctors agree religion has a positive effect on healing and 86 medical schools offer courses on the topic. "If being religious is the criteria for public service, then most of our Founding Fathers would have been disqualified."
Family Research Council president Ken Connor said that Hager was "the latest victim of religious profiling." He added: "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."
Hager serves on the Physician Resource Council for Focus on the Family and has served as clinical research investigator for the Centers for Disease Control.