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WASHINGTON (RNS) Conservative Christians called Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius an “unfortunate” choice for U.S. Health and Human Services secretary because of her support of abortion rights, while others — including fellow Catholic Democrats — came to her defense.
President Obama formally announced his nomination of Sebelius for the post on Monday (March 2), citing her “reputation for bipartisan problem-solving” and “unquestioned integrity.”
Sebelius’ stance on abortion has led her Kansas City archbishop to ask her to refrain from taking Communion.
“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.
“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.”
Concerned Women for America said Sebelius’ record on abortion makes her “unfit” to be HHS Secretary. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue called her a “champion of abortion rights right through term” and said Obama had offended Catholics by choosing her.
More moderate Catholics, however, praised Sebelius’ signing of bills that supported pregnant women and expanded adoption.
“The governor has had disagreements over public policy with leaders in her church,” said members of Catholics United, a group that includes Rev. Tom Reese, a Jesuit political scientist, and Pepperdine University law professor Douglas Kmiec. “Yet their disagreement has never been over the morality of abortion, but over what prudential policy is best in dealing with abortion in Kansas.”
A dozen evangelical leaders who have encouraged bipartisan action to reduce abortion said Sebelius merits a fair hearing. They included Florida megachurch leader Joel Hunter and Mercer University ethics professor David Gushee.
“Efforts to discredit her will no doubt arise,” they said, “but we hope that such tactics will not succeed in taking focus off of her record of reducing abortions and supporting women and families in Kansas– and the task that lies ahead of us all: working together to improve health care and reduce the number of abortions in America.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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