We already knew Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is dedicated to abortion. Now, we see that his radicalism makes him unwilling to enforce the laws he has sworn to uphold.
If he won’t enforce duly passed laws restricting abortion, Becerra should leave office.
First, the background: Becerra is almost ghoulish in his support of abortion. When he was in Congress, his defense of the practice was 100%, and he even voted against a ban against trafficking minors across state lines, without parental knowledge, for abortions. As attorney general of California, he used his position to try to bully Catholic hospitals into performing abortions. He tried to force pregnancy help centers to advertise for abortion providers. He persecuted pro-life activists for exposing Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in aborted human body parts.
Becerra is a man with a seemingly deep emotional investment in what is euphemistically and overgenerously called the “pro-choice” cause.
Now, as a Cabinet secretary, his job is to enforce all health-related laws, including those with which he disagrees. Judging from an exchange he had with Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida at a Wednesday virtual hearing, Becerra is unwilling even to admit that such laws exist, much less enforce them.
Bilirakis asked if Becerra agrees that partial-birth abortion is illegal. The “partial-birth” term is common parlance for a procedure in which a nearly full-term baby is partially removed from the woman’s body, only to have its skull crushed and then be gruesomely disposed of. That method of abortion was outlawed by congressional act in 2003. Becerra is well aware of this because he was in Congress then and voted against the law.
This law was later upheld by the Supreme Court, so Becerra must enforce it as constitutional legislation. Nonetheless, Becerra dodged the question by making the irrelevant point that “partial-birth abortion” isn’t a “medical term” and asked (as if he didn’t know!) what the congressman “mean[s] by that.” It’s difficult to take this response as anything other than dishonesty.
Becerra then pivoted from the intent of the question, which was to see if he was willing to enforce any legal restrictions on abortion, and answered that he would protect the “settled precedent” that a “woman has a right to make decisions about her reproductive health,” the well-worn euphemism for “abort her baby.” Becerra said he would “enforce the law to protect those rights,” but he wouldn’t say that he would enforce legal restrictions on a procedure that is not a right. According to the law and the Supreme Court, there is no right to have a partial-birth abortion.
In sum, Becerra evaded the question. When Bilirakis asked again for clarification, Becerra resorted to flat untruths. “There is no law,” he said, “dealing specifically with the term ‘partial-birth abortion.’” That must be news for Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which passed in 2003 over Becerra’s objection. It couldn’t possibly be any more “specific” than that.
Still avoiding the question of whether he would enforce that law, Becerra yet again acted as if the question were whether he would enforce the “right” to which the law provides a fully constitutional exception. “We have clear precedents in the law on the rights that women have,” he replied, saying he would enforce those rights to “healthcare.”
Becerra’s dodge is unacceptable. Members of Congress should send him a follow-up question, under oath, that is simple and direct: “The 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Act is the law of the land, and it was confirmed as constitutional by the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart. Will you enforce the ban on the procedure as specifically defined in that act?”
The only acceptable answer would come in one word: “Yes.”
If Becerra cannot give that answer and follow through with action, he should resign. And if he will not resign, he should be impeached for refusal to do his sworn duty under the Constitution.