One of today's Chronicle editorials addresses the way to improve health care in Houston and Harris County. Mayor White's health policy advisor is quoted, but we don't think the editors provided readers with the proper context about this particular advisor.
Houston Mayor Bill White's director of health policy, Elena Marks, likes the cautious approach the study group has taken to renovating countywide health care: "I think their idea of letting this council work through it is the right approach. It's not clear that you ought to immediately merge all of the services or never merge any of them."
Marks says she's excited by the thrust of the recommendations "to make some fundamental changes in the way we deliver the full continuum of services from the public health end all the way to the trauma end."
A Chronicle story on Saturday told us that Marks is a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, and it appears she is actually a bit more than just a volunteer -- she is (or was) board chair [sic] of Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, Inc. It is unclear if she is currently board chair (a piece of furniture?) or if that was in the past.
Can you imagine the horror and outrage if someone who was a member of the Texas Right to Life committee was named Mayor White's director of health policy? The Chronicle editors would come unglued! Andrea Georgsson would demand endless editorials screaming about this obvious sign of encroaching theocracy!
Mayor White has apparently known Marks for awhile. This link to a Houston Planned Parenthood newsletter has an article and pictures from a 2001 Planned Parenthood "gala" (does anyone else find that offensive?), and Bill White and his wife were listed as party hosts. If you continue to the second page, you'll see a picture of Elena Marks at the "gala."
And how are things at our local Planned Parenthood these days? Well, the latest newsletter has a "20 Year Reflection" report from its CEO. One of the successes he points to is:
Abortion procedures: 2,882 vs. 6,876. This growth in clients is thanks to our Fannin and Bryan staff, our medical director and other staff physicians.
Thanks, indeed, to the staff: the number of dead babies has increased. Things are looking good at Planned Parenthood of Houston!
Trying to find some biographical information on Marks isn't easy. Her listing on the mayor's website is, uh, short:
Elena MARKS is Director of Health Policy.
Oh, okay. Any medical background? Who knows, but she does have a Juris Doctorate (a very smart person tells me that means she's a law school graduate, which is very important for a health policy advisor.). There is a mention of her in this article that says she is the city’s first health policy director and that it is a ($1 per year) volunteer position, and this 1995 Houston Press column lists her as Planned Parenthood's legal adviser, at that time.
Do you think Marks brings her pro-abortion stance to work with her? Or do you think she tries to be objective, looking at health issues from a pro-life position, also? I think we can guess.
And no wonder the Chronicle editors like Mayor White -- in this case, Planned Parenthood is the tie that binds.
UPDATE 1: A blogHOUSTON reader dug deeper and found the notation "MPH" next to Marks' name on the author information page of the anti-parental notification study. That stands for master of public health. Thank you for the heads up, blogHOUSTON reader. Now we need the mayor's office to note Marks' qualifications on the mayor's website. Houstonians have a right to know who is advising the mayor.
UPDATE 2: David Benzion, an upstanding gentleman doing his best to reign in the motley group over at Lone Star Times, looked at Marks' political donation history, and what he found is not surprising.