Biden's HHS nomination sign of admin's likely extreme abortion course

David Closson is Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on December 15, 2020.

Since the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden has reiterated his desire to unify the country. “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, [who] only sees the United States,” Biden promised after the election.

Despite these assurances, Biden sent a chilling message to pro-life Americans when he formally nominated Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra, who currently serves as California’s attorney general, is one of the most ardent abortion supporters in public office.

Evangelical leaders were troubled by Becerra’s nomination. “This is really big. It’s of enormous concern,” explained Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary and candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. “It’s hard to imagine anyone that will be more dangerous in the position as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services than Xavier Becerra,” he added.

Likewise, Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in Becerra’s home state of California, said, “Mr. Becerra has a consistent track record of opposing religious liberty and cultural values emerging from religious convictions. He will, no doubt, demonstrate his convictions and use his position to further those positions if his cabinet appointment is approved. The country would be better served by someone less antagonistic to faith communities.”

Concerns related to Becerra’s record on abortion are well-founded. During his 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Becerra proved to be one of the abortion lobby’s most reliable voters. For example, in 2003, he voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that prohibited the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion. In 2005, Becerra voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which sought to make it a criminal offense to harm or kill an unborn child during the committing of a violent crime. He also voted for taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell experimentation in 2006 and against redirecting said money to more ethical lines of research. More recently, Becerra voted against the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act in 2012, which would have imposed civil and criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly attempted to perform an abortion on the basis of the sex or race of the unborn child or the race of a parent.

Becerra continued his work to advance abortion rights when he became California’s attorney general in 2017. Since taking office, he has filed numerous lawsuits to overturn pro-life laws in other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio. In 2019, Becerra sued the Trump administration over an HHS rule that blocked millions of dollars to abortion providers who refused to separate their abortion business from family planning services. In 2019 he sued the Little Sisters of the Poor, insisting that the nuns should be forced to pay for abortifacients and contraception. 

As attorney general, Becerra defended a California law that required pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide information to their patients on how to obtain state-funded abortions. The case, NIFLA v. Becerra, went to the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas, who wrote the majority’s opinion, struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2018, noting that the California law, defended by Becerra, imposed an undue burden on the First Amendment rights of pro-life clinics and doctors. Becerra also defended California’s abortion coverage mandate that is in direct violation of federal law. HHS notified California in January 2020 that their law mandating that all health insurance plans cover abortion is not in compliance with the Weldon Amendment. Instead of working with HHS to remedy the issue, Becerra doubled down on the law, telling the Trump administration that they were impeding California’s ability to support women’s right to “reproductive freedom.”

Finally, Becerra continued what his predecessor Kamala Harris started by continuing the investigation into pro-life journalists who had exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in selling baby body parts. In 2015, David Daleiden released a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing fees for human fetal tissue and organs. Rather than pursue Planned Parenthood — which endorsed Becerra in 2017 when he ran for attorney general — Becerra harassed and investigated Daleiden. Actions like this demonstrate Becerra’s proven record of shaping the law to fit his ideology. Instead of doing a substantive investigation into the evidence that Planned Parenthood violated federal law, he directly targeted Daleiden because his videos revealed unsavory truths about the abortion industry.

In short, Becerra’s record is known and well documented. Thus, while Joe Biden has preached a message of unity and told his supporters that they shouldn’t treat political opponents as enemies, the nomination of an abortion hardliner like Xavier Becerra sends a clear message: a Biden administration will not be moderate on abortion.

Nominating Becerra — a politician with little experience with matters related to public health — to lead the federal agency tasked with public health amid a global pandemic prioritizes political and ideological commitments over public safety. It signals Biden’s readiness to reverse President Trump’s pro-life accomplishments. It also reveals tone-deafness to the tens of millions of Americans who just elected the most pro-life women to Congress in history.

Elections have consequences, and Americans should not be surprised that the most pro-abortion candidate in American history is nominating ideologues committed to promoting abortion. However, Becerra’s nomination also highlights the stakes of the two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia – which Republicans must win in order to have a pro-life Senate. Such a Senate is our last hope against pro-abortion, anti-religious freedom policies being forced upon Americans for years to come.