Questions Kathleen Sebelius Needs to Answer

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius — President Obama’s choice for secretary of health and human services – possesses a long record of support for the abortion industry.

Tomorrow, Sebelius will face her second Senate confirmation hearing, this time before the Senate Finance Committee.

Earlier this week, Sebelius faced questioning by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Unfortunately, during Tuesday’s hearing, Sebelius was not pressed for detailed answers about her ties to the abortion industry.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sebelius will oversee massive efforts to reform the national healthcare system.   She will be involved in critical policy decisions that affect American taxpayers, including deciding whether or not abortion will be subsidized on the taxpayers’ dime.  The most recent debate over protecting health care providers’ right of conscience will also fall under her purview

Sebelius has a long record as Kansas governor, and she should be held to account for it.  Now is the time to ask the tough questions about whether her record of support for the abortion industry will continue in earnest at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Sebelius should be required to answer the following questions in tomorrow’s Senate Finance Committee hearing:

1. The Hyde Amendment — Taxpayer-Funded Abortion:   The Hyde Amendment, named for pro-life hero Henry Hyde, has been in effect since 1976.  The amendment bans federal taxpayer funding for abortion under Medicaid and other programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.  First enacted under a Democratic Congress, the Hyde Amendment has been renewed by successive administrations and congresses regardless of which party is in control.   

Questions for Sebelius:

1) For the past several decades, the Hyde Amendment has restricted federal taxpayer funding for abortions.  Abortion groups have listed overturning the Hyde Amendment among their priorities for the new administration. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, would you advocate to overturn the Hyde Amendment and expand taxpayer funding for abortion?

2) Abortion groups have lobbied for the inclusion of abortion coverage in any national healthcare plans.  Should efforts to reform national healthcare include taxpayer-funded coverage for elective abortions?

2. Protecting the Right of Conscience for Health Care Providers: Our country is facing a critical shortage of health care providers in key fields, and amid this crisis, health care professionals are being systematically pressured to violate ethical standards.

In August 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) took long-overdue action to address a growing crisis of abortion-related discrimination that could force thousands of conscientious healthcare professionals out of medicine. After several months of public comment on its proposed regulation, in December 2008 HHS finalized a regulation that made clear the protections offered by three civil rights laws passed by Congress with bipartisan support.

The civil rights laws declare that American tax dollars will not fund programs in which healthcare professionals are fired, penalized or otherwise subjected to discrimination because of their ethical stance related to abortion and other morally controversial issues.

However, in March 2009, following protests from abortion special interest groups, the Obama administration officially declared plans to rescind the conscience-protecting regulation. The administration has, as required by law, called for a public comment period, which ends on April 9, 2009.

Questions for Sebelius:

1) Will you continue to advance the rules process currently in motion to repeal existing conscience protections for medical professionals?

2) Just last week, a physician and former lawyer for Planned Parenthood, Julie Cantor, published a piece in the “New England Journal of Medicine” in opposition to continuing the Conscience Protections.  In it, she argues that those with moral objections to certain medical procedures in the field of women’s health have an obligation to avoid the field entirely, in order to spare patients the “burden” of their conscientious objection.  Do you agree with that argument?

3. Parental Notification Laws: In 2008, Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a new piece of legislation that would have strengthened the existing parental notification laws in Kansas. The law would have required both minors seeking an abortion and any adult accompanying the minor to show identification. The law would also bar abortion clinic workers from helping a minor fill out judicial waivers.

In states all across the country, young girls who have been sexually assaulted have been taken into abortion clinics, where clinic workers help cover up statutory rape. The Kansas law would have decreased the chances of this happening. Furthermore, abortion is an incredibly serious decision that requires women to consider long-term consequences. This is a decision that teenagers may not always be prepared to make on their own and parents provide an important perspective.

Questions for Sebelius:

1)  Why did you veto legislation that would have helped prevent the covering up of statutory rape and encourage the role of parental guidance for young girls considering abortions?

2)  Should parents be notified or required to give consent when minor children consider abortions?

4. Late-Term Abortionist George Tiller: The infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller just finished his trial before a Kansas Jury, and though acquitted still faces review from the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. Tiller faced 19 charges of violating a Kansas law that requires all abortions on a post-viable baby to be approved by a second, financially independent doctor.

Tiller now faces an investigation by the Kansas State Board of Health, which is reviewing 11 charges of the same violations of law. The board, which regulates doctors, could revoke, suspend or limit Tiller’s medical license, or fine him.

A review of the medical records of Tiller’s abortions indicate that at times, Tiller approved abortions under the guise of concerns for the mother’s ‘mental health,’ while the actual reasons given included wanting to go to attend rock concerts, the prom or compete in the rodeo season. Tiller even performed abortions on children that were as young as 10 years old, without filing reports to the authorities in regard to their statutory rape.

Questions for Sebelius:

1) Is it unreasonable to require abortionists to provide explicit medical reasoning for each abortion provided to a patient?

2) Should George Tiller have his medical license revoked?

5.  Clinic Regulations: Kathleen Sebelius twice vetoed legislation that would have placed safety standards on abortion facilities and procedures. These bi-partisan pieces of legislation mirrored the standards currently in place in every existing Planned Parenthood clinic.

Organizations have documented the horrifying conditions in some Kansas clinics including blood-stained carpets, dirty instruments, and the remains of aborted fetuses in the same refrigerator as food. The laws Sebelius vetoed would have made the standards used by Planned Parenthood applicable to all abortion clinics performing more than five first-trimester abortions each year.

Federal courts have upheld the regulation of abortion clinics numerous times. The Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that, states have a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient. This reasoning was repeated in subsequent cases, including Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant, which found that states are within their rights to provide special regulations for abortion clinics, because abortion is rationally distinct from other medical procedures. The ruling Tuscon Womens Clinic v. Eden further found that regulations may be created to address the specifics of the abortion procedure, beyond general licensing for individual physicians.

Question for Sebelius:

1)  Why did you veto legislation that would have established standards for abortion clinics, even though federal courts have upheld the state’s right to designate special standards for abortion clinics?

6. Problematic Nominations in Kansas:  During the 2006 elections for Attorney General, Governor Sebelius hand-picked Paul Morrison to run as Kansas Attorney General. She funded a large amount of his campaign and oversaw his work in bringing charges against George Tiller. Morrison was forced to resign in December of 2007 when it became public that he had been involved in an extramarital affair. According to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Morrison used his affair with a woman at the district attorney’s office to unduly influence the litigation District Attorney Phil Kline was bringing against Planned Parenthood.

Sebelius also nominated abortionist Howard Ellis to serve on the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. Ellis had only a few months prior surrendered his medical license in Missouri in order to evade a disciplinary hearing. The Kansas Board then forced him to resign and brought charges against him, relating to a Missouri case where he allegedly persuaded a physician to alter some medical records.

Question for Sebelius:

1) In Washington, D.C. there is a common and telling saying with regard to staffing decisions: personnel is policy.  Should Americans expect you to utilize the same standards you used to fill critical positions in Kansas when you make your staffing decisions at HHS?

2) President Obama has discussed the importance of reaching out to a wide variety of parties when tackling health care reform.  Will there be a place for pro-life staff members on your team?

Mrs. Dannenfelser is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501 (c)(4) non-profit membership organization with a connected political action committee. The organization has more than 140,000 members residing in all 50 states.

This article first appeared in Human Events on April 1, 2009

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