The nomination of Dr. Henry Foster Jr. to become surgeon general turned controversial Friday when the White House and the Nashville, Tenn., obstetrician/gynecologist acknowledged that he had performed abortions during his nearly 30-year medical career.
Foster emphasized that he delivered more than 10,000 babies during that time and probably performed fewer than a dozen abortions.
All of them were in hospitals “and were primarily to save the lives of the women or because the women had been the victims of rape or incest,” he said in a statement.
Furthermore, he added, “if abortion is provided, my wish is that it be safe, legal and rare.”
Nevertheless, abortion foes vowed to fight his confirmation.
“We’re outraged,” said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League Inc. “We plan to pressure the Senate majority leader (Bob Dole of Kansas) to do everything possible to stop the nomination.”
Although the nomination has been praised by numerous mainstream medical organizations and reproductive rights groups, conservatives raised almost immediate objections to President Clinton’s choice to succeed Dr. Joycelyn Elders. Many of the objectors claimed that, despite Foster’s low-key style, he shared many of Elders’ views.
Elders was ousted last December after remarking - in response to a question during a public AIDS forum that she thought masturbation should be discussed as part of school sex education programs.
Foster, 61, is a former dean and acting president of Meharry Medical College, a black medical school, and founded the “I Have a Future Program” in two Nashville housing projects. The program is aimed at delaying sexual activity and raising selfrespect among teenagers.
Foster has supported condom distribution to youths and abortion counseling, but said Friday that “in my work with teenagers, abstinence has always been stressed as my first priority.”
White House spokesman Mike McCurry, in response to reporters’ questions, said the president is confident that Foster’s background would see him through the confirmation process.
Foster’s selection has been applauded by the American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
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