WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate easily confirmed Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services April 28 despite controversy over her record on abortion and the political contributions she has received from the country’s most notorious abortion doctor.
“It is a sad day for America and for America’s unborn children that Governor Sebelius, who is no friend to those unborn children, has been confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Her ties to perhaps the most infamous abortionist in America [George Tiller] should have disqualified her from serving in any cabinet position, much less secretary of Health and Human Services.”
Senators voted 65-31 for Sebelius’ confirmation, with all the “nay” votes coming from Republicans.
Pro-life advocates quickly announced their opposition when President Obama nominated her March 2, but their efforts could not overcome the Democrats’ large majority and the endorsement of Sebelius’ home-state senators, Republicans Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts. Brownback is recognized as a pro-life leader in Congress.
During her more than seven years as governor, Sebelius vetoed some measures intended to provide safety and health protections for women. She rejected in both 2003 and 2005 legislation that would have regulated abortion clinics.
On April 23, only five days before her Senate confirmation vote, she vetoed a bill that would have required doctors to report additional information to the state about late-term abortions they perform. 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.
George Tiller, the leading late-term abortion doctor in the country, provided extensive support for Sebelius’ political career. After her nomination to head Health and Human Services (HHS), she failed initially to disclose to the Senate the extent of those financial contributions.
After Sebelius reported $12,450 in contributions from Tiller and others affiliated with the doctor, it was disclosed that total donations actually were $39,600, according to The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal. After the correction, Sebelius told the Senate Finance Committee it was “an inadvertent omission,” according to the report.
Two pro-life organizations, Family Research Council and Operation Rescue, later announced they had obtained a letter from Tiller showing he had contributed an additional $200,000 to a political action committee seeking the 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.
“Dr. Tiller was not just a Sebelius supporter but one of her strongest and most ardent supporters,” Land told Baptist Press. “This should tell us everything we need to know about Kathleen Sebelius.”
Other national organizations opposed to Sebelius’ nomination included the National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association and Americans United for Life (AUL). They opposed Obama’s selection of Sebelius not only because of her potential impact as HHS secretary on abortion and other life issues but also out of concern she would help undermine the conscience rights of pro-life, health-care workers.
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, frequently in cases where babies might survive outside the womb.
In addition to her underreporting of contributions from Tiller, Sebelius acknowledged after her nomination she had made mistakes on past income tax returns. She paid nearly $8,000 in taxes and penalties.
Another Sebelius veto of an abortion restriction occurred in 2008, when she negated a bill that would have bolstered Kansas’ parental-notification law.
As a state representative from 1987-95, Sebelius “voted to weaken or eliminate even such modest abortion-related measures as parental notification, reflection periods and informed consent,” according to AUL.
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.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.