Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted Monday that he and others are pledging to refuse to confirm Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s pick to helm the Health and Human Services administration, Xavier Becerra, over concerns he’ll use the office to target abortion opponents, similar to the way he targeted pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in California.
Biden announced Becerra’s new role Monday morning, defying expectations that he would appoint the former Congressman and current California Attorney General to a role within the Department of Justice.
Democrats, and particularly progressives, applauded the choice, noting that Becerra was an advocate for universal health coverage while in Congress and is recently on the record as a supporter for a Medicare-for-All-style health care system, though Joe Biden refused to make such a plan part of his campaign for president, citing a need, instead, for overhauling and refining parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans, though, were quick to point out that Becerra signals a willingness on the part of a Biden administration to target abortion opponents directly. As attorney general, Becerra tried to force pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, which provide free prenatal care to expectant mothers but do not offer abortions, to provide potential patients with information about where they could obtain a free or low-cost abortion.
Cotton tweeted his pledge on Monday, saying, flatly that he would be “voting no, and Becerra should be rejected by the Senate.”
“Xavier Becerra spent his career attacking pro-life Americans and tried to force crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortions,” Cotton wrote. “He’s been a disaster in California and he is unqualified to lead HHS. I’ll be voting no, and Becerra should be rejected by the Senate.”
The resulting legal case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where Becerra lost. The Supreme Court approved a preliminary injunction against the law, titled the “Reproductive FACT Act,” noting that requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform patients about abortion likely violated their First Amendment rights to both free speech and to free exercise.
At the time, Politico notes, Becerra pledged to continue targeting abortion opponents.
“California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the decision ‘unfortunate’ and said the state will continue working to ‘ensure that Californians receive accurate information’ about their health options. His office did not indicate how the state would respond,” the outlet noted. “’When it comes to making their health decisions, all California women — regardless of their economic background or zip code — deserve access to critical and non-biased information to make their own informed decisions,'” Becerra said.”
Pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List also pointed out that Becerra continued prosecuting David Daleidin, a journalist who exposed Planned Parenthood’s alleged involvement in “baby parts trafficking.”
We call on Republican senators to stand firm & stop this unacceptable nomination from going forward. (3/3)
— Susan B. Anthony List (@SBAList) December 7, 2020
The appointment does seem in line with a potential Biden administration’s approach to pro-lifers and others who have a religious objection to promoting or providing abortion or contraception. Biden has promised to reinstate the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, Catholic News Agency reports, removing freedom of conscious protections that exempt religious employers from violating religious beliefs preventing them from providing birth control free of charge to employees.
“Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania on July 8, Biden said he was ‘disappointed’ by the decision and promised to reinstate Obama-era policies requiring the sisters to ensure access to birth control in violation of their religious beliefs,” CNA reported.
“If I am elected I will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the [Supreme Court’s 2014] Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions,” Biden said in July.
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