Bad Choice: What's the Matter with Kathleen Sebelius?

By Dougherty, Michael Brendan | The American Conservative, March 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Bad Choice: What's the Matter with Kathleen Sebelius?


Dougherty, Michael Brendan, The American Conservative


BY NOMINATING Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the Obama administration has chosen its first battle in the culture wars. Picking a pro-choice Catholic who has been barred from receiving communion by the Church would stir headlines at any time. But Sebelius's pro-choice record is uniquely disturbing. She is a major beneficiary of the abortion industry's financial largesse and a protector of its political status. Despite her efforts to guard abortion providers from prosecution, Sebelius's confirmation hearings will probably occur at the same time that George Tiller, a notorious late-term abortionist and Sebelius patron, sits for the first post-Roe trial for breaking laws restricting abortion.

Sebelius's nomination has energized the pro-life movement and exposed endemic corruption within Kansas's legal system. Lance Kinzer, the head of the Kansas house judiciary committee, says, "In the Sebelius years, Kansas has been a circus on the abortion issue."

The governor portrays herself as a moderate who is "personally opposed" to abortion and cites legislation to prove the point. In 2005, she signed a law that required physicians performing abortions on girls 14 and younger to retain fetal tissue and turn it over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for use in potential prosecution of sex crimes against children. She credits herself for a drop in the number of abortions performed in Kansas during her two terms as governor, even though the decrease tracks national trends.

As a state legislator, however, Sebelius opposed informed-consent laws as well as measures requiring parental notification for minors obtaining abortions. As governor, she has blocked all serious attempts to regulate abortion in Kansas. Since 2005, she has vetoed two bills requiring doctors to provide medical justification for abortions of viable fetuses.

The man who principally benefited from this legislation, Dr. George Tiller, is infamous in pro-life circles. Tiller claims to have performed well over 10,000 late-term abortions and is rumored to receive nearly $40,000 for each of these procedures. He is a major player in the Kansas Democratic Party. Through his PAC, ProKanDo, Tiller has invested nearly $1 million in Kansas politics. He donated more than $12,000 to Sebelius in 2002. In 2006, he cut a check for $120,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, which in turn funneled $200,000 to a PAC that Sebelius controlled. The antiabortion group Operation Rescue has publicized photos of Tiller partying with Sebelius in the governor's mansion, which she made available for a pro-choice fundraising auction. One of the pictures shows the governor pointing to Tiller and holding up a campaign T-shirt that reads "Sebelius ... Morrison 2006."

That "Morrison" was the pro-choice Republican district attorney of Johnson County. Sebelius recruited him to the Democratic Party and supported him in a campaign against the pro-life Phil Kline for attorney general. Kline was a natural target for Sebelius. He passed several restrictions on abortion in the Kansas house. In 2002, he ran for attorney general to enforce them and won. Once elected, he leveled 107 criminal charges against Planned Parenthood and 30 more against George Tiller. According to Kline, they performed illegal abortions and falsified documents to cover up their crimes.

Sebelius chauffeured Morrison around the state on her campaign plane and made Kline's prosecution of abortion providers the issue. Morrison campaigned on "medical privacy" and, with the help of Tiller's ProKanDo, outspent Kline four to one to take the attorney general spot.

But instead of politely disappearing, Kline was appointed by the Johnson County GOP to serve out the remainder of Morrison's term. From there, he continued to press his cases against Tiller and Planned Parenthood.

He stepped into a minefield. The local newspapers in Topeka and Wichita portrayed him as a dirty old man obsessed with the sexual habits of Kansans. …

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