In nominating former Utahn James O. Mason as the No. 2 man in the Health and Human Services Department, President Bush made "the best choice possible," says Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah..

"Dr. Mason is eminently well qualified, and his nomination has pleased people from the right to the left," Hatch said."He has been the director of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for the past five years, and did a wonderful job. He also did an excellent job when he was the director of our own state health department," Hatch said.

He added, "It's no secret that I pushed hard to have him in this position. . .. He's pro-life, and that's an important part of the equation - I made it an important part."

That became important after Louis Sullivan, Bush's nominee for secretary of health and human services, was reported to have told congressmen that he does not want the Supreme Court to reverse its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which allows legal abortions.

Sullivan was forced to hold meetings with key conservatives - including Hatch - to pledge support for Bush's anti-abortion stand. Hatch's support was crucial to Sullivan's nomination because Hatch is the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which will conduct Sullivan's confirmation hearings.

To appease anti-abortion groups and conservatives such as Hatch, the Bush administration made it known that it would appoint pro-life supporters to key positions surrounding Sullivan.

Hatch said that in Mason's new job he "will be Mr. Health in the administration, in some ways more so than even the surgeon general." That's because Mason will oversee all health organizations within the Department of Health and Human Resources.

"This will make him one of the highest-profile health officials in the world," Hatch said.

He added that will also make him one of the highest-profile Utahns in the Bush administration, along with presidential advisers Brent Scowcroft, Steve Studdert and Roger Porter.