Surgeon-general puts her faith in condoms for all

'Given a choice between hearing a daughter say 'I'm pregnant' or 'I used a condom', most mothers would get up in the middle of the night and buy them herself,' said Joycelyn Elders, nominated to be surgeon-general, at her confirmation hearing at the end of last week

Republican senators queried her promotion of the use of condoms in Arkansas schools; she said she wanted 'to make every child born in America a planned, wanted child'.

Dr Elders is probably the last of Bill Clinton's senior appointments likely to attract serious attacks from the right. The White House is strongly supporting her, if only to rebut charges that Mr Clinton is weak in supporting friends in difficulty.

The right to an abortion and the availability of condoms is also politically dangerous for Republican senators because they know their party's anti-abortion stance in the presidential election lost them votes.

As result the Republican attack on Dr Elders, 59, the top health official in Arkansas for the past six years, known for her support for abortion rights and sex education, never quite got off the ground. The main criticism came from senators who asked why Dr Elders had not publicly revealed that condoms distributed in Arkansas schools were defective, leading to unwanted pregnancies.

She said it was difficult enough to get young men to use condoms anyway so she 'didn't want to make anybody afraid of condoms'. In the same circumstances she would do the same again because 'as a public health decision, you try to do the greatest good'.

In Arkansas Dr Elders, a paediatrician by training, supported the establishment in schools of clinics which could distribute condoms. This does not seem to have been successful and Dr Elders admitted 'the only thing which works 100 per cent is abstinence but we know that our children are not being abstinent'. Denying she was pro-abortion, she said she favoured sexual responsibility but this could not be dictated from above.

The job of Surgeon-General does not have much direct political power but it does have some influence in a country as concerned about its health as the United States. It also acts as a symbol of the administration's attitude towards health care and issues like abortion. Dr Elders, the daughter of a black share-cropper with eight children, says she never saw a doctor before her first year in college.

She said that as a child 'I heard my mother scream during difficult child deliveries without any medical help'. On another occasion her four-year-old brother, suffering from a ruptured appendix, had to be carried on the back of a mule to a doctor 10 miles away.

Given the growing divergence in the health of Americans who can afford full health care and those who cannot, the appointment of Dr Elders also underlines the commitment of President Clinton's administration to health care reform.

Her nomination looked briefly in trouble last week when she was accused of drawing two salaries, one for her job in Arkansas and the other as a consultant to the government in Washington. She was also on the board of a Little Rock bank which had been mismanaged. But in neither case had she done anything illegal. She had not paid the social security taxes for her her mother-in-law's nurse, but she said this was her husband's reponsibility.

Suggested Topics
News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Graphics

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Part time Design and Technology...

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Head of Department - English

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Head of Department for English. Wiltsh...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits