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HHS nominee vetoes late-term abortion bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed legislation late last week to require increased accountability by late-term abortion doctors as the U.S. Senate prepared for a confirmation vote on her nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Senate is scheduled to debate and vote on Sebelius’ nomination Tuesday. President Obama nominated the fellow Democrat March 2 to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, in spite of the controversy over her latest veto.

Sebelius rejected a bill Thursday that would have required doctors to report additional information to the state about late-term abortions they perform, according to The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal. Under the legislation, physicians would have to provide the medical diagnoses they used as the basis for performing late-term abortions. Kansas permits abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy in cases of endangerment to the mother’s life or “substantial and irreversible” harm to a significant bodily function, The Capital-Journal reported.

The measure also would have permitted a civil lawsuit against a doctor if a woman or a family member believes an abortion he performed was illegal. In addition, the legislation would have strengthened the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion by limiting the exceptions to a threat to the life of the mother.

Supporters of the legislation appear to lack the votes needed to override the veto. In passing the bill, the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives both fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority required to override a veto.

“If there was any doubt about how a pro-life [U.S.] Senator ought to vote on the Sebelius nomination, there should be no doubt now,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “Sebelius should be opposed for many reasons, but primarily because her concern for abortion providers trumps her duty to protect women.”

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, called the veto a “cowardly and dastardly death warrant.”

“It is sickening in the truest sense,” Culp said in a written statement. “Kathleen Sebelius is an extremist on before-birth issues, end-of-life issues and cloning issues.”

The veto came two days after the U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 to forward Sebelius’ nomination to the full chamber. The senators did so despite her acknowledgment she had underreported to the committee campaign contributions from the country’s most notorious abortion doctor, George Tiller.

Tiller’s Wichita clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, is a major reason Kansas has been described as “the late-term abortion capital of America.” It advertises on its website it has “more experience in late abortion services over 24 weeks than anyone else currently practicing in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Australia.” Women travel to his clinic from throughout the United States and various foreign countries in order to have late-term abortions.

After Sebelius originally reported $12,450 in contributions from Tiller and others affiliated with the doctor, it was disclosed total donations actually were $39,600, according to The Capital-Journal. Almost two-thirds went to her political action committee, the newspaper reported. After the disclosure, Sebelius told the Finance Committee it was “an inadvertent omission,” according to the report.

Two pro-life organizations, Family Research Council and Operation Rescue, later reported they had obtained a letter from Tiller showing he had contributed an additional $200,000 to a political action committee seeking defeat of Sebelius’ pro-life opponent in her first race for governor in 2002. She also hosted a reception at the governor’s mansion that included Tiller and his staff.

After her nomination, Sebelius acknowledged mistakes on past income tax returns and paid nearly $8,000 in taxes and penalties.

Most pro-life leaders oppose Obama’s selection of Sebelius, citing concerns about her potential impact as HHS secretary on abortion and other life issues, as well as on the conscience rights of health-care workers. National organizations opposed to Sebelius’ nomination include the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association and Americans United for Life.

Americans United for Life, a leading pro-life legal organization, said after Sebelius’ nomination she is “unfit to serve” as HHS secretary. Its reasons included:

— She vetoed in both 2003 and 2005 legislation that would have regulated abortion clinics and thereby provided safety and health protections for women.

— She vetoed in 2008 a bill that would have bolstered Kansas’ parental notification law.

As a state representative from 1987 to 1995, Sebelius “voted to weaken or eliminate even such modest abortion-related measures as parental notification, reflection periods and informed consent,” according to Americans United for Life.

In both 2007 and 2008, Sebelius, a Roman Catholic, was urged by her archbishop, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., not to present herself for communion because of her support for abortion rights.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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