This article first appeared in Human Events on April 28, 2009.
The Real Kathleen Sebelius: Abortions Uber Alles
By: Marjorie Dannenfelser
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ recent eleventh-hour veto of commonsense abortion regulations should erase any lingering doubts for pro-life Senators. Those looking to evaluate the allegiances of Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services should now have their answers. For Gov. Sebelius, women’s health and well-being will always come second to her support for the abortion industry.
Anyone who may been unsure about where Sebelius stands received conclusive proof from Sebelius’ veto pen last Thursday night. The latest piece of common-sense legislation vetoed by Sebelius, the 2009 Late-Term and Partial-Birth Abortion Regulation Act, provided a clear definition of a qualified medical professional and defined the standards for late-term abortion data reporting. It strengthened the requirement that late-term abortion providers submit a written medical diagnosis to pinpoint exactly which physical ailment places the mother’s life in jeopardy, therefore allowing a legal late-term abortion. It also granted abortion victims legal recourse if they later discovered that the procedure performed on them violated state law.
By defining quality care and by granting women legal recourse, this bill sought to strengthen protections for women considering the tragic, life-altering decision of abortion. Yet instead of responding with compassion for abortion victims and supporting more stringent standards for abortion providers, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius chose to side with late-term abortion providers like George Tiller.
In response to written questions submitted by Senators during her confirmation process, Sebelius wrote that she opposed “all post-viability abortions, except in cases where they are medically necessary.” This determination, she wrote, “should be made by qualified health professionals, in accordance with the law.” Yet it was these very beliefs that Sebelius rejected with her veto of the 2009 Late-Term and Partial-Birth Abortion Regulation Act.
If her words were to be believed, Kathleen Sebelius the Health and Human Services nominee would have supported this bill. Yet in practice, Kathleen Sebelius the Kansas governor vetoed it. This contradiction begs the question – which is it? Does Sebelius want to protect women’s interests and guarantee that they receive the best care possible, or does she simply want to protect the abortion industry?
In her response to the Senate questions, Sebelius invoked the importance of following the letter of the law. She wrote that even in the face of personal disagreements, “my job will be to enforce the law.” The sentiments Sebelius expressed about the importance of holding herself accountable certainly sound appealing, but this commitment should be the bare minimum that senators demand from President Obama’s nominees.
Despite her self-professed dedication to respecting existing laws, Sebelius the governor was not interested granting women the legal means with which to hold abortionists accountable for following the law. The bill Sebelius vetoed would have allowed abortion victims to bring a civil suit against abortion providers who violate state laws and safety regulations.
With her actions, Sebelius put the interests of her friends in the abortion industry above the needs of women. With the stroke of a pen, Sebelius denied legal recourse to women who are lied to by clinics and whose lives are endangered by dubious medical practices. She cut short the ability of prosecutors to “enforce the law.” Again, which position does Sebelius actually believe? Does she believe the law must be upheld by everyone? Or does she believe abortion providers are exempt from such a duty?
Sebelius pays lip-service to women’s well-being, but when it comes down to it, her actions and her words stand in stark contrast. This was not the first time she vetoed a bill that offered greater protections for women. She has opposed or vetoed several abortion-accountability bills, including medically-supported clinic regulation legislation, which she vetoed in both 2003 and 2005.
Sebelius knows that her actions and her words do not match. In fact, she hoped to avoid Senate Bill 218 because she knew it would reveal this very contradiction. In Kansas, the governor has ten days to either veto a bill or sign it into law. If no action is taken after those 10 days, then the bill automatically becomes law.
If Sebelius was not afraid to stand behind her actions, why would she wait to veto the bill until 4:45 p.m. on the last possible day?
Undoubtedly, Sebelius thought her nomination was going to be approved before the deadline, meaning she could pass the decision off to her successor. Instead, thanks to the skillful actions of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), her vote on the Senate floor was delayed, and Sebelius was forced to choose. Instead of protecting women, however, she once again aligned herself with the abortion industry.
As more evidence of her abortion-friendly record is revealed, Sebelius loses support. RNC Chairman Michael Steele should be applauded for calling upon Sebelius to answer the tough questions about her support for abortion on-demand. The American people deserve clear answers about her ties to the abortion industry. Who will be the real Secretary of Health and Human Services if Gov. Sebellius is confirmed today? Sebelius the nominee, who speaks of supporting women and upholding the law, or Sebelius the governor, who continually vetoes legislation to protect women and allows abortionists to evade the law?
More than any answer she provides to Senate questions, Gov. Sebelius’ long history and actions as governor provide the most compelling evidence for pro-life senators to evaluate. Her record tells us that she will consistently support the abortion industry, even if it means abandoning the needs of women. Pro-life senators should consider the mounting opposition to the Sebelius nomination, as well as the ever-growing body of evidence that shows her concern for abortion providers trumps her duty to protect women.
If there were ever a day to oppose her nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services, that day is today. It is not too late to make the right choice for millions of women across America by voting ‘no’ on Gov. Sebelius’ nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Ms. Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide organization dedicated to advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women in the political process.