Most Americans are familiar with such federal departments as Defense and Treasury. Their names indicate what they do.
Fewer know much about the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But they should. The size and scope of HHS is vast, which is why the person leading it is so important.
First, some background. Under the large HHS umbrella are the 27 National Institutes and Centers of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medicare and Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, the Administration for Children and Families (which administers federal welfare programs), the Public Health Service, and much more. The total HHS budget is more than $1.3 trillion annually – compared to about $700 billion for the Department of Defense.
HHS has jurisdiction over virtually every aspect of federal policy concerning abortion policy. Which is why President Biden’s nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is so troubling.
Mr. Becerra served in Congress for 24 years, where he was one of the most strident advocates for abortion-on-demand in the House. The National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood have both given him 100% ratings. He “voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, voted against making it a crime to hurt an unborn child during another crime, and voted for taxpayer-funded abortions.”
As AG in California, he has even sued other states that have pro-life laws. “No government, state or federal, has the right to make personal decisions for a woman about her body or her healthcare,” he said last year when suing the state of Missouri for its pro-life laws.
Take note of that statement: Mr. Becerra equates abortion with “healthcare.” That’s why, in 2018, he took the baton from departing California Attorney General Kamala Harris and fought the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to force pregnancy care centers to inform women that “California provides free or low-cost services, including abortions,” and provide them with a phone number to call.
Based on an effort to enforce a California anti-life law, this was a clear effort to squelch the pro-life movement’s freedom of speech. No private entity should be forced to provide information about activities it was created to oppose.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of pro-life groups to be exactly that — pro-life. Mr. Becerra’s effort to compel compliance with the California law forced “a government-scripted, speaker-based disclosure requirement that (was) wholly disconnected from the State’s informational interest.” In other words, Ms. Harris and Mr. Becerra were trying to silence opposition to abortion-on-demand. Thankfully, they lost.
And in yet another example of his pro-abortion zealotry, Mr. Becerra charged David Daleiden with no less than 15 felonies for secretly recording discussions of the sale of aborted baby body parts. Mr. Becerra was more angered by the exposure of the gruesome trafficking of the organs of tiny babies than by the practice itself. Mr. Becerra has even sued the Little Sisters of the Poor to force them to include abortion-causing drugs in their health insurance program. There can be little doubt that a Secretary Becerra supports voiding the Trump administration’s many pro-life policies.
Mr. Becerra is also a crusader for the LGBTQ agenda. He voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which guaranteed states the right to define marriage as they saw fit (overturned by President Obama and his congressional allies). And in one of his first acts as California’s AG, he sued one California county for its “discriminatory” bathroom policy that provides students who identify as transgender with their own restrooms, insisting that these students should be able to use the men’s and women’s rooms of their choice.
And on Nov. 9, 2017, Mr. Becerra “filed a motion for the state of California to intervene in Stockman v. Trump,” which is aimed at “challenging Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.”
Perhaps the most alarming aspect about Mr. Becerra’s nomination is his complete lack of experience in administering anything to do with health care policy. As Kaiser Health News says, Mr. Becerra “is set to be a pandemic-era secretary with no public health experience.”
Yet given President Biden’s commitment to abortion and the LGBTQ agenda, the Becerra nomination should come as no surprise. Mr. Biden has now jettisoned his long-term support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion. And, he says, he wants to “codify” Roe v. Wade, writing the “right” to abortion-on-demand into federal law. He also says that his “Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion.”
The great power and reach of HHS will be placed in the hands of the most extreme pro-abortion zealot ever to lead it, should Xavier Becerra be confirmed by the Senate. Abortion isn’t health care. And Xavier Becerra must not become the next secretary of Health and Human Services.
• Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.