Groups of medical professionals warn that President Biden’s health secretary nominee would bring about an “unprecedented assault” on conscience rights.
In a letter to the Senate on Wednesday, several Christian and conservative medical groups opposed the confirmation of California attorney general Xavier Becerra as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Based upon the review of his voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives and his service as Attorney General of the state of California, we believe that Mr. Becerra will continue to vigorously promote not only elective abortion up to and including at the time of birth, but also the acceptance of infanticide when infants are born alive during failed abortion procedures,” the letter read.
The letter was signed by several pro-life medical groups: the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the Catholic Medical Association.
The members argued that Becerra supported extreme abortion policies during his time in the House and in California, while opposing conscience rights for medical professionals.
“While a congressman, he [Becerra] voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, opposed legislation protecting survivors of abortion, and during the pandemic advocated for the expansion of chemical abortions remotely,” said the letter, adding that “while California Attorney General, Mr. Becerra was twice held in violation of federal laws protecting conscience rights in healthcare.”
The Senate voted on Thursday afternoon to advance Becerra’s confirmation, bringing up a final vote expected later in the day. The confirmation hit a snag last week when the Senate Finance Committee was evenly split on a favorable recommendation of Becerra. The gridlock forced Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move to discharge Becerra’s confirmation for a vote by the entire chamber. The Senate then voted 51-48 to move ahead with Becerra’s confirmation process.
As attorney general, Becerra defended the state’s Reproductive FACT Act that required crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. That law was later found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. After the high court’s decision, the HHS Office for Civil RIghts ruled that the state’s previous enforcement of the law had violated federal conscience laws.
In 2020, that HHS office again found California to be in violation of federal conscience laws for its mandate that forced even Catholic religious to provide coverage of abortions in health plans. When given 30 days to comply with the law, Becerra refused. HHS later penalized California by withholding $200 million in Medicaid funds.
In their letter, groups said there was “ample evidence to suggest there will be zero tolerance for exemptions to HHS regulations in this administration, whether based on conscience or religious liberty.”
“He [Becerra] has demonstrated as California Attorney General that he will aggressively prosecute anyone whose opinion differs from his own regarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the letter added.
In addition, they noted that Becerra has a “callous indifference to the sanctity of life” both at the beginning of life and end of life.
“As California Attorney General, Mr. Becerra fought vigorously to defend the state’s physician-assisted suicide law, the End of Life Option Act,” they said.
“It is frightening to consider that if confirmed, our next Secretary of Health and Human Services would likely promote the concept that a physician’s prescription for a lethal dose of medication will improve the lives of Americans,” they said.
Opposition to Becerra’s nomination continued on Thursday among Republican senators as his confirmation progressed.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that Becerra’s views on abortion “are unacceptable, unjust, and far outside the mainstream.”
“He even sued to force an order of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to purchase healthcare coverage that violated their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Cotton. “When he was asked about it by the Senate, like any bully, he tried to cover it up, denying that he sued the Little Sisters at all.”
“If he will sue the Little Sisters, then what will he do to you and your family,” said Cotton.