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Intersection of Life and Faith

Veto of Abortion Clinic Bill Helped Key Donor

  • Kathleen Rhodes Correspondent
  • 2005 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
Veto of Abortion Clinic Bill Helped Key Donor
(CNSNews.com) - Kansas Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who's under fire for her controversial veto of a bill critics say might have prevented the recent death of a woman in a botched abortion, accepted thousands of dollars in political donations from the owner of the clinic that performed the dead woman's abortion.

Information obtained by Cybercast News Service shows that George Tiller, who runs Women's Health Care Services P.A. in Wichita, made more than $20,000 in contributions to various Sebelius campaigns and her political action committee between 1994 and 2002.

Tiller's clinic is currently under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, following a Jan. 13 abortion that is believed to have caused the hemorrhaging that led to the death of the 19-year-old Texas woman.

According to documents from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, Tiller personally contributed a total of $10,200 to Sebelius' political campaigns between 1994 and 2000, while Women's Health Care Services contributed another $2,000 to Sebelius' campaign in September 2000.

Receipt and expenditure reports at the Kansas Secretary of State's office reveal that in 2000, Tiller contributed $10,000 to Sebelius' political action committee, the Bluestem Fund.

Tiller's wife, Jeanne Tiller, also made personal donations of $2,250 to Sebelius' campaigns between 1998 and 2001, according to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Three members of Sebelius' administration have received donations from Tiller himself or Women's Health Care Services, according to the Governmental Ethics Commission website. They include Jim Garner, secretary of the Kansas Department of Labor, who got $5,000; Joan Wagnon, secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue, who received $4,000 and Marge Petty, director of public affairs and consumer protection, who received $1,500.

Tiller's business is also one of two abortion clinics being directed by Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline to furnish medical records on dozens of young women and girls.

Kline, a Republican, hopes the subpoenaed records will tell him which females were the victims of child rape. Sexual intercourse with a child 14 years of age and younger is a crime in Kansas.

Pro-life activists have long protested Tiller's abortion practice, which specializes in late term or "partial birth" abortions, and Sebelius is facing criticism for her April 2003 veto of House Bill 2176, which would have imposed more restrictions on abortion clinics.

When she struck down the bill, Sebelius insisted that "the health care facilities addressed in this bill are already subject to those high standards."

"I have long fought to make sure that doctors and patients, not insurance companies and not the Kansas Legislature, make decisions regarding an individual's health care procedures," Sebelius added.

But the current regulations are insufficient, according to pro-life activists. "The clinic regulation act requires that if there's a complication in the procedure, that the authorities - the Kansas Board of Healing Arts - would be notified," Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue West, told the Cybercast News Service . "And presumably once they're notified, they would then put certain safeguards in place to prevent the same occurrence from happening again.

According to Newman, there were at least six other recent incidents, prior to the Texas woman's death, in which patients of Tiller had to be hospitalized after undergoing abortions. H.B. 2176, Newman asserted, would have required Tiller to report those incidents.

Attorney General Kline also said Sebelius could have done more to prevent the 19-year-old woman's death. "Women would be [safer] when receiving services at these clinics if the governor had not vetoed the clinic licensing bill," Kline reportedly told an Operation Rescue interviewer.

Sebelius on Feb. 2 reportedly asked the Kansas Board of Healing Arts to conduct "an immediate and thorough investigation" into whether the legislation she vetoed could have helped prevent the Texas woman's death.

But Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, a group that has looked into the Tiller-Sebelius financial connections, is fearful that the investigation into the death of the 19-year-old Texas woman is being stonewalled.

"Use of the Board of Healing Arts alone to investigate this death makes us question just how serious the governor is about getting to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the death in Wichita," Culp stated last week.

Do donations constitute conflict?

Tiller's financial backing of Sebelius, both through personal donations to her campaign and her PAC, and those from his clinic, are sufficient to demonstrate a conflict of interest on the governor's part, Newman charged.

"When there's a botched abortion, she's got a conflict of interest. Either mess with her top donor or do the right thing. It looks to me that she has chosen to ignore the activity, possibly criminal activity, of [one of her top donors]," Newman said.

Newman is also wary of Sebelius' ties to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, pointing out that the group's executive director, Larry Buening, is married to one of Sebelius' top staffers, Vicki Buening.

Newman said he would like Sebelius to order an independent investigation conducted by an "outside third party source that doesn't answer directly to her.

"She's hoping and begging that the entity that she controls, (the Board of Healing Arts), will come back and say 'Don't worry, it's not your fault. The blood of this woman is not on your hands," said Newman.

Calls to Sebelius' office, seeking comment for this report, were not returned. The person who answered the phone at George Tiller's Wichita clinic said Tiller would not comment, however, the abortionist does have his backers.

Joan Wagnon, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue, expressed her admiration for Tiller in a July 1991 interview with the Wichita Eagle newspaper. Tiller, she said, possessed "a social conscience and a big heart.

"George Tiller is a family man. He's got kids, he takes them skiing, he's involved in the community. If you didn't know that George did abortions, you'd think he was the world's nicest guy," Wagnon added.

Julie Burkhart, a spokesperson for Tiller, was quoted by the Lawrence Journal-World on Feb. 22 in reference to the death last month of the 19-year-old Texas woman. "This is not uncommon, given the tragic circumstances which often surround a woman's decision to seek an abortion," Burkhart said.

She added that Kansans for Life and other pro-life groups "seek to invade the personal lives and medical records of women to further their own political agendas."