Will Sebelius Stand Strong on the Birth Control Mandate? Kansas’ Experience Sheds Some Light on What’s At Stake


I’m from Kansas.  This is a place where physicians are shot in church during Sunday service.  This is a place where pregnancy resulting from rape is compared to the inconvenience of a flat tire.  This is also a place where Governor Sam Brownback has declared the promotion of a “culture of life”, signing every abortion bill that crosses his desk, no matter how extreme, while simultaneously slashing school funding and programs that assist the needy.

Kansas is also the state that gave President Obama, former Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The former Kansas Governor defended the rights of women during her time as our Governor.  She acted as our backstop, vetoing anti-choice bills that were passed by an anti-choice legislative majority.  We pro-choice lobbyists worked to secure enough support in order to prevent the attempted override of her vetoes. 

However, Governor Sebelius has been known to play a little politics with women’s health and has signed unnecessary abortion legislation into law, when the timing was right or when she “concluded that the bill had no constitutional flaws, did not jeopardize patient privacy and did not block access to health services.

Her signature on the “woman’s right to know bill” might seem like a minor offense to those of us in the pro-choice community.  It’s pretty tame when placed alongside the legislation that passed in our state in 2011.  It is something to take into consideration, however, considering the recent debate over the preventative contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act and the bullying by the seemingly all-powerful Catholic lobby, to block that coverage for their expansive business endeavors. 

Kansas has seen the expansion of healthcare services provided by Via Christi, a Catholic medical group.  This group lays claim to numerous hospitals and recently bought-out another privately-owned major medical group in Wichita.  Via Christi employs 10,000 people across the state of Kansas.  Via Christi’s medical benefits policy currently excludes the coverage of contraception.  The women included among these 10,000 employed by Via Christi would continue to be denied contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  The women of Via Christi would continue to be subjected to the discriminatory policies of their employer, which has been cheered on by religious entities such as the Catholic Dioceses of Wichita.  The same Dioceses that has a video on their website that states that oral contraception causes abortion…and another that warns that “your wife might get a bit testy with hormonal manipulation” (see NFP vs. Contraception 1 video). 

Secretary Sebelius is a Catholic herself.  She has bucked the radical doctrine by the extreme among her religious affiliation in the past.  Let’s hope that she stands firm in her support of women at the national level, as she did in Kansas.  Let’s hope that she doesn’t choose this issue to toss to the rabid dog Bishops as some kind of “pro-life” contraceptive Scooby Snack.  The women of Kansas hope that she uses her position with this pro-choice President to remind him that ALL women deserve the right to control their own destiny free from the intrusion of radical religious dogma.  Here’s hoping that she takes another stand for the women of Kansas and  for the women of the nation. 

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