Anti-Abortion Activists Plan to Fight Sebelius' Nomination for HHS

Anti-abortion activists are planning strong opposition to Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's pick for secretary of health and human services, saying the Kansas governor's positions on abortion and her ties to a late-term abortion provider are too extreme for her to be in charge of America's health care policy.

Kansas-based Operation Rescue says it will launch a full-out campaign against Sebelius because, as governor, she has had the support of Dr. George Tiller, who has been indicted for allegedly performing late-term abortions on underage girls.

"With Obama's appointment of Gov. Sebelius to the Department of Health and Human Services, he might as well be appointing George Tiller, because Tiller is the one that will be pulling her strings," said Operation Rescue Chief Troy Newman in a post on the group's Web site.

"Sebelius' involvement in Kansas abortion scandals and her indebtedness to the corrupt abortion lobby makes her unfit to serve. We urge our supporters to begin contacting their senators now to voice opposition to Sebelius' confirmation."

Sebelius' opponents point out that HHS already is in the process of undoing a Bush administration regulation that allows medical personnel to refuse to provide abortion or sterilization services based on religious or moral grounds. The regulation went into effect on Inauguration Day.

But it's unlikely Sebelius will face much opposition in the U.S. Senate. Even the two Republican senators from her own state -- Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback -- are fine with the choice. Roberts was in attendance at the White House Monday as Obama announced his nomination of Sebelius -- a point the president noted.

As governor, Sebelius saw the abortion rate decline 8.5 percent in Kansas between 2002 and 2007, according to the state's health department. The state's abortion rate fell 14 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to the Allen Guttmacher Institute, which is generally cited by both abortion rights supporters and opponents for its statistics. The nation's abortion rate declined 9 percent during that time, the institute reported.

Kansas is one of 32 states that uses Medicaid funds to pay for abortion when the mother's life is in danger, or in cases of rape or incest. Sebelius vetoed legislation that would have authorized the secretary of the Department of Health and Environment to disclose information to district and county attorneys and the attorney general on physicians and medical care facilities that provide late-term abortions. The governor said the information could end up compromising women's medical privacy.

Sebelius signed a bill known as "Alexa's Law," which allows for charges to brought against someone who commits violence on a fetus, and she signed legislation to require abortion providers to submit fetal tissue samples to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations when the mother is younger than 14 years old.

But Kansas state Rep. Steve Brunk, a Republican who sponsored Alexa's Law, told that Sebelius is a clear, committed abortion rights protector who signed the legislation only because it was a criminal statute rolled into five other bills she supported.

"If she vetoed Alexa's Law, she would have vetoed all five others," Brunk said. Instead, he said, Sebelius decided to sign the "mega bill."

"The political fallout from that would have been more than she wanted," he said. "I think if she had a chance, she would have vetoed Alexa's Law in a nanosecond."

Brunk said that, to his knowledge, Sebelius has vetoed every piece of legislation aimed at a "woman's right to know" about abortions, including legislation on statistical reporting and on requiring women to look at sonograms before going through with the procedure.

Nonetheless, Brunk said that he is happy for the governor and "you're always proud to have someone from your home state" in a Cabinet position. He added that while Sebelius is on the opposite end of the spectrum from his philosophy on abortion, her position is consistent with the president's.

"I'd say they are very consistent. I'd say the president wants to move ... has shown every indication that he is not willing to do anything to lessen a woman's right to know or choose" not to get an abortion, Brunk said.

"While I understand the opposition, if it's not Sebelius, I think it would be somebody else, particularly in that job, that would be similar on those views."

Another group that is lining up against Sebelius is the Catholic League, which notes on its Web site that the Roman Catholic governor's "support for abortion is so far off-the-charts that she has been publicly criticized by the last three archbishops of Kansas City."

But Catholics United, a progressive group, has been in Sebelius' corner for a while. And on Monday, a group of 12 Christian leaders issued a statement saying they hope efforts to discredit Sebelius will be ignored.

"We hope that such tactics will not succeed in taking focus off of her record of reducing abortions and supporting women and families in Kansas -- and the task that lies ahead of us all: working together to improve health care and reduce the number of abortions in America," said the group of pastors and religious studies professors led by Joel Hunter, senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Northland, Fla.