Pro-life groups have vowed to block Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' confirmation as the secretary of Human and Health Services following news that she will officially be nominated to the post on Monday.
President Barack Obama on Saturday asked Sebelius, who was on his list of potential vice president picks last summer, to head the HHS department. She accepted, according to White House officials, who told CNN and The Washington Post that Obama would make the announcement Monday afternoon at the White House.
The pro-life community received news of Sebelius' appointment as another blow to efforts to end abortion. Before the weekend, an HHS official indicated the administration will take steps toward rescinding a law that protects the rights to conscience of health care professionals who otherwise might be forced to perform medical services against their moral or religious beliefs.
In the first days of taking office, Obama also signed a repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which prevented taxpayer dollars from going toward international organizations involved in performing or promoting abortions abroad.
After learning of Sebelius' nomination, pro-life leaders voiced strong opposition to her appointment, citing her radical abortion record and ties to a Kansas-based late-term abortion provider, George Tiller, who faces 19 charges of illegal abortions and will stand trial this month.
"In her time as an elected official in Kansas, Mrs. Sebelius has fought against popular pro-life measures such as parental consent and efforts to curb late-term abortions," said Tony Perkins, president of FRC Action, the legislative arm of Family Research Council, in a statement.
"Our nation's need for health care reform that is family-centered, life-affirming and available to all Americans in a free market is great, and these goals are ill-served by this unfortunate and objectionable nomination," said Perkins, who heads the Washington D.C.-based pro-family group.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said the president showed "poor judgment" when it came his latest cabinet appointment.
Newman has long drawn attention to the connections between Sebelius and abortion supporters, including hosting a party in April 2007 honoring Tiller and his entire staff at the governor's mansion while Tiller was under investigation. In May 2007, the Kansas governor spent her birthday at a party given by Planned Parenthood, which months later would face criminal charges.
The pro-life advocate, whose group is based in the Wichita, Kansas, the same area where Tiller runs an abortion clinic, said the governor's ties to Tiller and abortion scandals make "her unfit to serve."
Obama originally nominated former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle for the HHS post but the Democratic lawmaker withdrew last month after disclosing that he had made a mistake on his tax records and failed to pay over $140,000 back in taxes and penalties.
Following Daschle's withdrawal, Sebelius was considered a top contender for the post.
Even before Obama's HSS nod to Sebelius over the weekend, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, a Christian-based advocacy group, had criticized the governor for making disastrous appointments involving abortion supporters.
Sebelius' appointment for the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, abortion provider Howard Ellis, was charged by the Board with attempting to persuade a physician to falsify records. And her attorney general pick, Paul Morrison, later resigned from a sex scandal and reports that he abused his authority to obstruct the investigation of abortionists who were charged with committing illegal late-term abortions and covering up the statutory rape of girls.
"Sebelius' track record of giving preferential treatment to abortionists who are under investigation for criminal activity makes her a dangerous choice to be overseer of the country's top agency for health and human services," stated Wright last week.
Experts say that the Kansas governor would bring eight years of experience as state insurance commissioner but note that she lacks the deep ties that Daschle had to members of Congress who will vote on the president's health care proposals.
Her nomination was welcomed by those who favor the expansion of health care coverage and health insurers.
"Gov. Sebelius is the right person to move the president's health care agenda forward," said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plan, according to The Associated Press. "She has a wealth of experience of health care issues and has a legislative history of working with both sides of the aisle."
Meanwhile, Catholics United have released a statement that claims a group of Catholics are supporting Sebelius as the next HHS secretary. A group known as Catholics for Sebelius, comprised of "26 Catholic leaders, scholars and theologians," said they rejected tactics that use the governor's Catholic faith against her.
"Kathleen Sebelius has made clear that she agrees with church teaching that abortion is wrong and has lived and acted according to that belief," reads the statement by Catholics for Sebelius. "As governor she has worked to reduce the number of abortions by supporting expanded prenatal care and adoption incentives, expanding health services for Kansas families, and providing a variety of support services for families."
According to Wright, the number of abortions have actually increased under Sebelius' watch.
Other Catholic leaders have not shared the views expressed by Catholics for Sebelius.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann last year told Sebelius to refrain from receiving Communion after she vetoed abortion reform legislation. The previous two Kansas City archbishops have also criticized her abortion record.
Bill Donahue, president of Catholic League, backed their sentiment, saying, "None of these archbishops overreacted."