Tag Archives: abortion

Sebelius coverage focuses on experience, abortion

She tries to work with both Republicans and Democrats, but is inexperienced when its comes to working with Congress. And her support for abortion rights is a flashpoint that will generate serious protest. These are among the observations from various corners now that President Barack Obama has nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.

Several AHCJ members and staff visited Sebelius in Topeka on April 21, 2008, as part of AHCJ's Midwest Health Journalism Program Fellowships.

Several AHCJ members and staff visited Sebelius in Topeka on April 21, 2008, as part of AHCJ's Midwest Health Journalism Program Fellowships.

For instance, USA Today points out that Sebelius would bring “expertise as a former state health insurance regulator but not deep ties to the members of Congress who will decide the fate of the president’s health care proposals.” The paper quotes Norman Ornstein of conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute as saying “it’s a tough job for anybody to do right now,” but especially for a Washington outsider. “It’s like suddenly being inserted as quarterback in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, where you know the coach, you know the game, but you haven’t played with this team and you don’t know all the plays.”

On the other hand, CNNPolitics.com notes that Sebelius has “experience working with both Democrats and Republicans in her home state, which could be an asset to President Obama as he embarks on an effort at bipartisanship in reforming health care.”

The experience, however, may have been sobering, according to The New York Times, which pointed out that her “efforts to forge bipartisan consensus have rarely succeeded. She recently observed that the greatest frustration of her six years in office had been her inability to persuade lawmakers to raise tobacco taxes for a modest expansion of government health coverage.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post writes that Sebelius, who was raised as a Roman Catholic in Ohio, has “endured fierce and often personal criticism from anti-abortion activists largely because she vetoed a bill that would have required doctors who perform late-term abortions to report a reason for the procedure.” The paper adds that, after the veto, the archbishop of Kansas City asked her to stop taking Communion. Underscoring the point, FoxNews.com reports how anti-abortion activists plan to fight her nomination.

Beyond the mainstream, blogs are reacting with passion. Catholic Fire writes that it would “certainly be good to get her out of Kansas.” On the other end of the spectrum, Women’s Voices for Change is thrilled that Sebelius was chosen for HHS and calls her a “Mistress of the Universe,” who is a tough administrator, deeply bipartisan and determined to get things right, even when faced with unpopular choices.


Obama releases documents from advocacy groups

Jennifer LaFleur at ProPublica points out that “President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team seems to be following through with its promise of transparency by posting documents from its meetings with industry and advocacy groups.”

There are some health-related documents among the postings:

AIDS in America: An agenda endorsed by 15 national organizations that calls for “the development of a National AIDS Strategy for the U.S. that is designed to lower HIV incidence, increase access to HIV care, and reduce racial disparities in the epidemic and integrate HIV with STD, viral hepatitis and TB programs at the local level.”

Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum: “Priorities for the new administration to improve the health and well-being of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders”

Analysis of HIV/AIDS Priority Issues for Immediate Action: List of issues for “immediate action” from the AIDS Action Council

Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration: Agenda from a coalition of about 60 medical, public health, research, religious and religiously affiliated, women’s health, legal, and other advocacy organizations.

National Water Policy Dialogue: The American Water Resources Association, the Environment and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Wildlife Federation submitted a summary of the National Water Policy Dialogues conducted by AWRA at the request of 10 federal water agencies. Water quality is among their concerns.

Last-minute rules would affect health care

ProPublica, which is tracking last-minute rulemaking by the Bush Administration, reports on one rule that would make it more difficult for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to regulate toxins.

Fire and emergency response personnel practice techniques for hazardous materials containment and removal.

Fire and emergency response personnel practice techniques for hazardous materials containment and removal. Photo: Jim Gathany/CDC

ProPublica, which also links to coverage in The Washington Post and The New York Times, says “OSHA has issued just one significant health standard” in the past eight years – and that it did that under court order.

Another rule the administration is pushing forward is would require federally funded health care facilities to allow employees to refuse to provide services at odds with their moral or religious beliefs, such as abortion.

David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times reports that “For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses may refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion.”

Savage writes that the rule, as written, could extend to other procedures, including prescribing birth control or providing artificial inseminination. A lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center said the law also could affect decisions about end-of-life care.