URGENT Elders Resigns as Surgeon General
Dec. 09, 1994
MIAMI (AP) _ Joycelyn Elders, who drew conservative criticism for her statements on drugs and teen-age sex, was fired today by President Clinton.
Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Clinton, in Florida for the Summit of the Americas, had spoken with Elders after his midday speech. Chief of staff Leon Panetta said at the White House that Clinton had asked for and received Elders' resignation.
Elders' outspoken positions on such issues as drug legalization and teen- age sex have drawn frequent criticism from conservatives.
Elders caused an uproar last year when she suggested legalizing drugs was an idea that should be considered, a position quickly disavowed by President Clinton. Just months later, Elders' 28-year-old son was arrested for selling cocaine to undercover agents.
Remarking on Elders' knack for controversy, Clinton once said: ''Now I know how Abraham Lincoln felt when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe. He said, 'This is the little lady who started the great war.'''
Elders has drawn fire from conservatives and anti-abortion groups since 1987, when then-Gov. Clinton made her the first black and first woman to be Arkansas Health Department director.
Trying to combat teen-aged pregnancy in Arkansas, Elders fought it through sex education, parental responsibility courses and, in some cases, dispensing contraceptives to school kids. She backed providing preventative health care to poor children through school-based clinics. Contraceptives are dispensed at several clinics with permission of local school boards.
Conservatives say the initiative promotes promiscuity.
The National Right to Life Committee called her ''a pro-abortion extremist'' after word leaked out that she would be appointed.
''I've certainly not ever been known to be pro-abortion,'' Elders once said. ''My ideas have been about preventing pregnancy ... The best way to prevent abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancy.''