Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, testified to Congress during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he has “never sued any nuns,” despite California’s lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“I have never sued any nuns,” Becerra, who serves as California’s attorney general, told the Senate Finance Committee.
“I have taken on the federal government, but I’ve never sued any affiliation of nuns, and my actions have always been directed at the federal agencies because they have been trying to do things contrary to the law in California,” Becerra continued.
In 2017, Becerra filed a lawsuit on behalf of California against the Trump administration to reimpose the federal Obamacare mandate forcing health insurers to provide contraception coverage. Former President Obama’s HHS had imposed the contraception mandate on nearly all health insurers in 2011, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who objected to it on religious grounds, opening themselves up to crippling government fines. The Little Sisters is a Catholic order of nuns who care for the elderly in need.
Becerra’s bid to finesse his record and whitewash it of a distasteful item like litigation against nuns is an attempt to exploit a distinction without an appreciable difference, namely that the Little Sisters of the Poor intervened in California’s case against the federal government in order to be able to fight it directly.
However, the very purpose of Becerra’s lawsuit was to force the Little Sisters and any other group with a religious exemption from providing contraception coverage to begin doing so.
In July, the Little Sisters won one of their cases at the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Trump administration rules allowing private employers with religious objections to eschew contraception coverage. Despite that victory, which should have closed the issue permanently, Becerra’s litigation against the Little Sisters remains ongoing.
Becerra also balked when asked about whether he would support any limits on abortion access should he be confirmed as HHS secretary.
“I respect those who take a particular view,” Becerra responded when asked by Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, whether he would consider a ban on sex-selective abortions.
Likewise, Becerra declined to say whether he would support a ban on partial-birth abortion, a late-term abortion procedure that involves delivering the fetus and sometimes collapsing the infant’s skull. Partial-birth abortion was outlawed in the U.S. in 2003.
“What I can say is that I will make sure that I’m respecting the law on those issues,” Becerra responded.
His apparent refusal to consider any type of abortion restrictions is in line with Becerra’s history of rabid support for abortion access. He also served as prosecutor in the California criminal trial of David Daleiden, the pro-life activist who released undercover videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the procurement of fetal body parts. Becerra took over that case from now-Vice President Kamala Harris.
Becerra is also a favorite of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, which has donated multiple times to Becerra’s campaigns and expressed its full-throated support of his nomination to lead the powerful HHS.
The Finance Committee will vote on Becerra’s controversial nomination, after which he will face a vote in the full Senate.
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