by Steven Ertelt
December 16, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — President Bush has nominated current Environmental Protection Agency director Mike Leavitt to replace outgoing Heath and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Leavitt takes a pro-life position on abortion and is drawing solid opposition from pro-abortion groups. However, pro-life organizations are also concerned about some decisions Leavitt made as governor of Utah.
While governor, Leavitt signed pro-life legislation, including a bill requiring abortion facilities to give women factual information on abortion’s risks and alternatives.
He also signed a provision similar to the law that recently convicted Scott Peterson. Under the measure, Utah criminals who assault woman and kill or injure their unborn children would be prosecuted for two crimes instead of just one.
"I am strongly pro-life and anti-abortion," Leavitt said in 1993. "I believe in the sanctity of life at whatever stage of development that life is in."
In 1997, Leavitt said he wanted Utah to have the "toughest abortion law" in the nation.
However, some pro-life advocates are concerned about other decisions Leavitt made.
"He vetoed a bill while he was the governor of Utah which would have mandated abstinence-only education, really stressing sexual purity until marriage and fidelity afterwards," Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family said.
Earll told Family News in Focus that Leavitt also spent some abstinence education money on sponsoring a youth hockey league.
She said Leavitt will have to prove that, on abstinence issues, he will follow President Bush’s strong commitment to funding abstinence. The president has persuaded Congress to spend record levels on abstinence and he and abstinence educators have come under fire from abortion advocates as a result.
Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, says she believes Leavitt’s reputation as a strong friend of the president means he will implement Bush’s pro-abstinence policies.
"I can’t imagine that Mr. Leavitt would want to do anything but what the president would want him to do in abstinence until marriage programming," Unruh told Family News in Focus.
Leavitt’s administration also defended in court a 1991 law that prohibited abortion in most cases, though it was overturned.
However, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said he and other pro-life advocates took issue with Leavitt’s decision to not further defend the pro-life law after it was initially struck down.
Perkins said his group hoped Bush would have appointed HHS Under Secretary Claude Allen, who has stronger pro-life credentials.
Meanwhile, abortion advocacy groups say they worry Leavitt will put ideology over science when it comes to abortion, abstinence and stem cell research.
"America deserves a secretary of health and human services who understands the value of objective science and who will not put men, women and teens at risk just to further an ideological agenda," said Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt.
Leavitt will need to be confirmed by the Senate and pro-abortion Senator Jon Corzine, a New Jersey Democrat, said he will be asked tough questions about his pro-life stance.
"He is extremely anti-choice and that will be a factor,” Corzine told Bloomberg News.
The Senate voted 88-8 to confirm Leavitt as head of the EPA on October 2003.