- (Photo: AP / Susan Walsh)
Confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Kathleen Sebelius opened on Tuesday much to the disappointment of pro-lifers who want the Kansas governor's abortion record spotlighted.
In a hearing chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sebelius pledged to make healthcare reform her mission. That same day, she revealed that she recently paid more than $7,000 in back taxes.
Little was revealed about her abortion stance.
"Americans – and women in particular – deserve answers about Governor Sebelius' ties to the abortion industry," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life network. "As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sebelius will wield great influence with regard to national abortion policy, particularly the use of taxpayer funds to provide and promote abortion on-demand."
Since President Barack Obama announced Sebelius as an HHS Secretary nominee, pro-life groups have vowed to block her confirmation.
Over 16,000 Susan B. Anthony List activists have sent letters to their Senators, urging opposition to the Sebelius nomination
More recently, some 30 pro-family leaders, including Family Research Council Action's Tom McClusky and Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery, sent a letter to the U.S. Senate on Monday, citing her pro-abortion actions and her failure to make significant improvements in health coverage or costs as governor.
They listed her vote to "weaken or eliminate" such "modest measures" as unborn victims, parental notification and informed consent, her decisions to cut state funding for abortion alternatives and veto a bill that would strengthen late-term abortion law, and her personal ties to notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller.
"She also has established a record in Kansas of refusing to work with the state legislature in making real reform possible, a trait it is expected she will bring to Washington," the letter also states.
"It is for these reasons we ask you to oppose the nomination of Governor Sebelius as HHS Secretary."
In a rare turn of events last week, Sebelius signed a bill requiring that women seeking abortions in Kansas be allowed to see ultrasound images of their fetus or hear the fetus's heartbeat before going through with the procedure.
The move, however, did not convince pro-lifers that the Catholic governor had "a sudden change of heart," as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said.
Perkins believes Sebelius was being "politically pragmatic" at a time when she's under a national microscope.
"The reality in Kansas is that Mrs. Sebelius, whose pro-abortion record is unprecedented among sitting governors, was facing a veto-proof legislature," Perkins said Tuesday.
Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List expressed her appreciation for Sebelius' recent action but said "it will not erase her long history of support for the abortion industry."
Pro-life groups are urging Senators to press Sebelius with tough questions this week to reveal her "true positions."
Sebelius is scheduled to appear Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on sending her nomination to the full Senate.