Xavier Becerra on Tuesday defended his past opposition to a ban on partial-birth abortion but said he hopes to find “common ground” with those who disagree with him on the issue.
Becerra, who is President Biden’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, took questions from members of the U.S. Senate Health Committee, including from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who asked Becerra why he voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Romney is pro-life.
Becerra, while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, voted against bans on partial-birth abortion multiple times, including in 1996 and 2003. He currently is California’s attorney general.
“I understand that people have different deeply held beliefs on this issue,” Becerra answered. “And I respect that. I have worked, as I've mentioned, for decades, in 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.”
He then mentioned his wife, who is an obstetrician and gynecologist.
“And I'm also sitting in front of a high-risk OB/GYN who, for several decades, had the work of protecting the health of women, and a future baby,” Becerra said. “And 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 that I hope to be able to work with you and others to reach that common ground on so many different issues.”
Romney responded, “I think we can reach common ground on many issues, but on a partial-birth abortion, it sounds like we’re not going to reach common ground there.”
.@SenatorRomney: "You voted against a ban on partial birth abortion. Why?"— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) February 23, 2021
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
Partial-birth abortion is a procedure in which the doctor partially delivers a late-term baby, feet first, until only the head remains in the birth canal. The doctor then suctions out the brain, allowing for a dead delivery. The bills Becerra opposed in 1996 and 2003 included an exception for the life of the mother.
President Bush signed a ban on partial-birth abortion in 2003. The law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, on Monday, a coalition of more than 60 pro-life leaders sent a letter to members of the Senate Health Committee, urging them to oppose Becerra’s nomination. The coalition called him a “radical” on abortion.
“Mr. Becerra is an enemy to every pro-life policy and law and has demonstrated complete disregard for the religious and moral convictions of those opposed to the brutal act of abortion,” the letter says. “His radical record in public office as California’s Attorney General and member of Congress leads our organizations to ask you to reject Mr. Becerra’s nomination… Mr. Becerra’s confirmation would be divisive and a step in the wrong direction. We understand that the president needs to assemble a cabinet; however, Mr. Becerra has proven himself to be an enemy of the health of women and the unborn. He cannot be entrusted with our national health programs and policies and is not qualified to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
More Than 70 Congressmembers Urge Biden to Withdraw His HHS Secretary Nomination
Xavier Becerra, Biden’s HHS Pick, Is an ‘Extremist on Abortion,’ Pro-Lifers Warn
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.