Abortion Foes Raise New Questions About Kansas Governor

By John Hanna | April 16, 2009 | 7:22 AM EDT
Topeka, Kan. (AP) - An anti-abortion group released a document Wednesday that it said raises new questions about ties between President Barack Obama's health secretary nominee and one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.
Operation Rescue opposes Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' nomination as secretary of health and human services and hopes to block her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Sebelius has a long record of supporting abortion rights, though she has told senators she personally opposes abortion.
Sebelius' spokeswoman described the document as "a 7-year-old mass mailing" and "really not news."
The document is a September 2002 letter signed by Dr. George Tiller on the stationery of ProKanDo, a political action committee formed in 2002 that initially was affiliated with Tiller's clinic in Wichita.
The PAC's former executive director said Wednesday it was ProKanDo's first fundraising letter. In it, Tiller mentions a $200,000 "personal contribution" to the PAC to defeat Sebelius' Republican opponent in the 2002 governor's race. It doesn't mention Sebelius by name.
Anti-abortion groups have sought to make an issue of Sebelius' pro-abortion stances and her ties to Tiller, who was acquitted last month of misdemeanor charges stemming from procedures he performed but is now under investigation by the state medical board.
In written answers to questions submitted by senators considering her nomination, Sebelius initially said she received $12,450 from Tiller between 1994-2001, while serving as Kansas insurance commissioner.
Earlier this week -- after Operation Rescue complained -- she amended her answers to note an additional $23,000 in contributions in 2000-2002 from Tiller or his clinic to a PAC she formed as insurance commissioner to help elect Democrats.
"She benefited far more than what she likes to portray," said Troy Newman, Operation Rescue's president. "She's trying to distance herself from George Tiller."
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican who has endorsed Sebelius' HHS nomination, said recent questions about Tiller's past political support for her are "very troubling." But he told The Associated Press at an anti-tax rally in Wichita that he's not backing away from his endorsement of Sebelius' appointment.
Brownback said he had not had time to thoroughly review the letter released by Operation Rescue.
ProKanDo's former executive director, Julie Burkhart, who held the position when it formed in July 2002, said the letter was directed at Sebelius' opponent. She said it reflected an effort "to make sure that practices like Dr. Tiller's will keep their doors open."
Newman said the document has been in Operation Rescue's "archives" and the organization has been reviewing its files since Sebelius' appointment by Obama. He said the group is trying to document a "longtime friendship and affiliation" between Tiller and Sebelius.
Associated Press Writer Roxana Hegeman in Wichita contributed to this report.
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