Government & Politics

Sebelius decries ‘difficult and demeaning’ abortion access laws

Reproductive rights supporters need to fully realize how health care choices for women continue to be eroded, Kathleen Sebelius said Monday in Kansas City.

“What is happening at the state level is frightening,” the former U.S. Health and Human Services secretary and Kansas governor told 150 health care officials, medical students and others during a Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri conference.

“Both states unfortunately have passed restrictive and difficult and demeaning laws to make it more difficult and expensive to obtain abortion services,” Sebelius said at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor who was a keynote speaker at the Planned Parenthood conference in Kansas City, talked with reporters after her speech. Video by Joe Ledford

Sebelius also said the refusal by Kansas and Missouri lawmakers to expand Medicaid represents “playing politics with peoples’ lives, I think, in the most irresponsible way possible. It is morally repugnant and economically stupid policy for both Missouri and Kansas.”

The United States does worse in lowering teen pregnancies and reducing unintended births than many developed countries, Sebelius said.

“And what is the difference in some of those developed countries?

“Women have affordable access to contraception. They have affordable and easier access to abortion services. They have comprehensive sex education. They have providers who actually spend some time counseling and supporting women.”

During her speech, Sebelius also said that reproductive rights supporters must enlist millennials in their 2016 election efforts. That demographic, Sebelius said, includes voters who are “better educated” and “more tolerant” and also today represents the nation’s largest population group, now outnumbering baby boomers.

“This is the group that we have to mobilize,” she said.

The shootings last month that left three dead and nine wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., have added to the climate of fear, Sebelius said after her formal remarks.

Those attending the Kansas City conference had to present photo identification cards to attend Sebelius’ speech, and uniformed police officers monitored the crowd.

Organizers originally had intended the conference to he held at the Kauffman Foundation. But foundation officials, given the recent shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., suggested the conference be moved to a location with more experience with security, said Laura McQuade, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Kansas City area Planned Parenthood representatives had not received any recent threats, McQuade added.

Brian Burnes: 816-234-4120, @BPBthree