washingtonpost.com
A Pro-Choicer's Dream Veep

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, May 26, 2008

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, whose Roman Catholic archdiocese covers northeast Kansas, on May 9 called on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to stop taking Communion until she disowns her support for the "serious moral evil" of abortion. That put the church in conflict with a rising star of the Democratic Party who is often described as a "moderate" and is perhaps the leading prospect to become Barack Obama's running mate.

Naumann also took Sebelius to task for her veto April 21 of a bill, passed by 2 to 1 margins in both houses of the Kansas Legislature, that would strengthen the state's ban on late-term abortions by authorizing private lawsuits against providers. Last year, she vetoed a bill requiring explicit medical reasons for a late abortion, and she vetoed other abortion legislation in 2006, 2005 and 2003.

Those positions are necessary for Democratic politicians to pass their party's pro-choice litmus test, but Sebelius's connection with abortion is more intimate. She is allied with the aggressive Kansas branch of Planned Parenthood in a bitter struggle with antiabortion activist District Attorney Phill Kline. There is substantial evidence she has been involved in what pro-life advocates term "laundering" abortion industry money for distribution to Kansas Democrats. Kansas is the fiercest state battleground in the abortion wars, making Kathleen Sebelius the national pro-choice poster girl.

The Almanac of American Politics talks of a "moderate image" for Sebelius, daughter of former Ohio governor John Gilligan. She picked up substantial Republican support in an easy win in the 2002 governor's race and, after naming a former GOP state chairman as her running mate, was reelected in 2006 in a landslide. Chosen this year to deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address, she told the nation, "In this time normally reserved for the partisan response, I hope to offer you something more: an American response." She gave the impression of reaching out across party lines in what was widely regarded as an audition for vice president as a Democrat able to carry a red state.

Behind that facade, Sebelius sits at the apex of a complicated Kansas financing system involving the famous abortion provider George Tiller of Wichita. She controls Bluestem Fund PAC, which distributed money to Kansas Democratic candidates. Tiller, one of the few U.S. doctors still performing late-term abortions, contributed $120,000 in 2006 to the Democratic Governors Association, which has given $200,000 to Bluestem.

In 2006, Sebelius recruited Paul Morrison, then the Republican district attorney in Johnson County, to run as a Democrat against Republican Kline, who was seeking reelection as attorney general. Morrison, financed by Tiller's ProKanDo PAC, outspent Kline and swamped him at the polls. But Kline then replaced Morrison as district attorney in Johnson County and promptly filed 107 charges against Planned Parenthood, including allegations of "unlawful late-term abortions."

That triggered a ferocious legal battle during which Sebelius appointees, both judicial and executive, have sabotaged Kline's efforts, with the Kansas Supreme Court barring a key witness from testifying. The confrontation continues even though Morrison resigned after the revelation in December of a two-year affair. District Judge Stephen Six, whom Sebelius appointed attorney general, has joined the legal action against Kline that had been led by Morrison.

In her 2006 abortion veto statement, Sebelius declared: "My Catholic faith teaches me that life is sacred. Personally, I believe abortion is wrong." Yet, a year later, Sebelius invited Tiller and his staff to a party at the governor's mansion. She thanked Tiller for his generosity in helping to finance her election and Morrison's. Last May, Sebelius was featured at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Kansas City.

Obama, while asserting that "nobody is pro-abortion," has said that if his two daughters "make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." Would Sebelius, an avowed Catholic, change her running mate's view that a baby is a punishment? When Naumann told the Kansas City Star this month that Sebelius must confess "scandalous behavior that has misled people into dangerous behavior," the governor's spokeswoman responded that "receiving Communion has not been a problem in the past for her." An answer came last week from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, in his online column, reproving "verbal gymnastics, good alibis and pious talk about 'personal opposition' to killing unborn children."

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company