Health secretary nominee Xavier Becerra waffled on a question from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on the nominee’s past opposition to a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Romney questioned Becerra, who serves as California’s attorney general, during a Tuesday Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. During his line of questioning, Romney asked Becerra why he voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, an abortion in the second or third trimester of a pregnancy, typically after the point of viability, while he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“There’s a division in our country with regards to the issue of abortion, of course as you know. Mainstream Republicans, mainstream Democrats disagree, but most people agree that partial-birth abortion is awful. You voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Why?” Romney asked.
Becerra began: “So, senator, here I understand that people have different deeply held beliefs on this issue, and I respect that. I have worked, as I mentioned, for decades trying to protect the health of men and women, young and old. And as attorney general, my job has been to follow the law and make sure others are following the law.”
“I’m also sitting in front of a high-risk OBGYN who, for several decades, had the work of protecting the health of women and a future baby,” he continued, referring to his wife. “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. And I will tell you I hope to be able to work with you and others to reach that common ground on so many different issues.”
Romney welcomed Becerra’s commitment to work together, but the senator rejected the nominee’s offer to compromise on late-term abortions.
“I think we can reach common ground on many issues, but on partial-birth abortion, it sounds like we are not going to reach common ground there,” Romney said.
.@SenatorRomney: "You voted against a ban on partial birth abortion. Why?"
Becerra: "I understand that people have different deeply held beliefs on this issue….We may not always agree on where to go, but I think we can find some common ground." pic.twitter.com/kGgGv33xCo
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) February 23, 2021
The majority of Americans do not support allowing abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 60% of U.S. adults support abortion in the first trimester, but that support tumbles to just 28% of adults for the second trimester abortions.
Becerra has met stiff resistance in the Senate from Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the Health secretary nominee in comments on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
“Amid a global pandemic, the president has made a puzzling selection for this critical post: The famously partisan Attorney General of California,” McConnell said. “Mr. Becerra has no particular experience or expertise in health. His chief passion project in California seemed to be using the force of government to attack Americans’ religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
“In 2017, the department he’s nominated to lead finally provided a religious exemption to a controversial Obamacare mandate,” he added. “Mr. Becerra led the lawsuit to challenge it. He used his taxpayer-funded office to sue Catholic nuns who didn’t want government forcing them to violate their beliefs.”
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