President Barack Obama with Surgeon General nominee Regina Benjamin in White House Rose Garden (photo:White House)
President Obama's pick for surgeon general has urged that future doctors learn how to perform abortions.
Obama announced his nominee for surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, at the White House Monday. Benjamin, 52, is a family doctor in Alabama who established the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic "to provide health care with dignity to impoverished residents."
"When people couldn't pay, she didn't charge them," Obama said July 13 in the White House Rose Garden. "When the clinic wasn't making money, she didn't take a salary for herself."
Benjamin said, "As a physician, my priority has always been the needs of my patients. I decided I would treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. However, it has not been an easy road.
"It should not be this hard for doctors and other health care providers to care for their patients. It shouldn't be this expensive for Americans to get health care in this country."
She is the first black woman and the first doctor younger than 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association's board of trustees, and in 2002 she became the first black woman to head a state medical society.
Benjamin rebuilt her clinic three times after it was destroyed by Hurricane George in 1998, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in a later fire.
On the issue of abortion, Benjamin has advocated more training for doctors on how to terminate pregnancy.
In December 1996, Benjamin "spoke in favor of a vote by the AMA's governing body to 'urge medical schools to expand their curriculum' to teach 'more about abortion,'" LifeNews reported.
"We are adopting a policy that medical school curriculum provide the legal, ethical, and psychological principles associated with abortion so students can learn all the factors involved," she said, according to the Associated Press.
Benjamin is also a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that condemns illegal abortions in many nations across the world. According to LifeNews, the group has used on questionable statistics on mothers' deaths from abortions to call for legalization.
Benjamin, a professed Catholic, told the Catholic Digest in 2007: "The most important thing to me is when I walk into a room and tell a mother that her baby's going to be all right. It lets me know that I'm doing the right thing in life."
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Benjamin said she hopes "to be America's doctor, America's family physician."
And when it comes to health care, she said she plans to ensure that "[N]o one, no one, falls through the cracks."