California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, did not back away Tuesday from his 2003 vote against a partial-birth abortion ban when he was in Congress.
GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah questioned Becerra regarding his views on partial-birth abortion during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
“Most people agree that partial-birth abortion is awful. You voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Why?” Romney asked.
The partial-birth abortion ban passed the House in 2003 in a 281-142 vote, with 63 Democrats voting for it.
The only justification Becerra offered Romney for his vote against the ban was to say people have different views concerning the procedure, which ends pregnancies in the third trimester when unborn babies are generally viable outside the womb.
“So, senator, I understand that people have different, deeply held beliefs on this issue. And I respect that. I have worked, as I’ve mentioned, for decades trying to protect the health of men and women, young and old,” Becerra answered.
He then appeared to refer to the presence of Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas on the committee, noting the lawmaker was a high-risk OB/GYN doctor “who for several decades had to work protecting the health of women and a future baby.”
“So I will tell you that when I come to these issues, I understand that we may not always agree on where to go, but I think we can find some common ground on these issues because everyone wants to make sure that, if you have an opportunity, you’re going to live a healthy life,” Becerra said.
Romney did not seem satisfied with the answer.
“I think we can reach common ground on many issues, but on partial-birth abortion, it sounds like we’re not going to reach common ground there,” he said.
Valerie Huber — a former Trump administration senior HHS official who worked on women’s health issues — contended that Becerra is not a good choice to lead the department.
“Any secretary of HHS should be committed to promote and protect the health of every American, including the most vulnerable — those Americans yet unborn,” she said in an emailed statement to The Western Journal.
Connor Semelsberger, the director of federal affairs for life and human dignity at Family Research Council, agreed with Huber’s assessment.
“It is a travesty to see that President Biden’s pick to be the HHS Secretary cannot even denounce the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion,” he said in a statement to The Western Journal. “This pro-life policy is one that was not only upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 but supported by President Biden himself.”
Mallory Quigley with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List said she sees Becerra as a “pro-abortion activist.”
“Mr. Becerra is a hardened abortion ally who will fight for his industry allies over the health and safety of women as HHS secretary,” Quigley told The Western Journal in an emailed statement.
“Far from being a moderate, Mr. Becerra is a radical pro-abortion activist with a decades-long record supporting extreme policies such as partial birth abortion,” she said. “That was a bridge too far even for many Democrats at the time.”
NBC News reported that the abortion rights groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood have endorsed Becerra to become HHS secretary.
“From his time in Congress to serving as California’s Attorney General, Mr. Becerra has been a decades-long champion for health care for all, including sexual and reproductive health care access,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California said in a December statement.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky described Becerra as a “radical and underqualified nominee” in a speech from the Senate floor Tuesday.
“He used his taxpayer-funded office [as California attorney general] to sue Catholic nuns who didn’t want government forcing them to violate their beliefs,” McConnell said in a reference to a suit by California and other states seeking to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“Now the fox wants to guard the henhouse,” he said.
“We will review Mr. Becerra’s testimony today, but I’m hard-pressed to see any way such a radical and underqualified nominee should fill such a critical post at this crucial time,” McConnell said.
In a Monday letter, 11 Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and John Kennedy of Louisiana, as well as dozens of GOP House members, urged Biden to withdraw Becerra’s nomination, citing, in part, the nominee’s positions on abortion.
“Mr. Becerra’s radical views extend to his ardent support of abortion until the moment of birth,” the letter reads.
“He opposed the 2003 partial birth abortion ban and co-sponsored legislation that would force religious employers like Hobby Lobby to cover the morning-after pill, even in the face of sincerely held religious objections.”
Did you know that The Western Journal now publishes some content in Spanish as well as English, for international audiences? Click here to read this article on The Western Journal en Español!
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.