Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 16:19 pm
The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday would not acknowledge an existing federal ban on “partial-birth abortion.”
During a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) asked HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra if he agreed that partial-birth abortion is illegal.
Becerra answered that “[t]here is no medical term like ‘partial-birth abortion’,” and that “[t]here is no law that deals specifically with the term ‘partial-birth abortion’.”
In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The law amended the federal criminal code to outlaw partial-birth abortion, defining it as a procedure where a baby is partially delivered until either the baby’s head or trunk is outside the mother’s body, and the doctor acts to kill the baby. An exception was made for cases where the mother's life is in danger.
As then-congressman from California, Becerra voted against the law. Abortionist Leroy Carhart sued to prevent the 2003 ban from going into effect. In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart.
Later in the hearing, Rep. John Joyce, M.D. (R-Pa.) noted that 18 U.S. Code § 1531 “is literally titled ‘partial-birth abortions prohibited’.” The statute, he said, “very clearly defines” the “inhumane procedure.”
Becerra maintained that “partial-birth abortion” is “not a medically-recognized term.” He recommended calling the procedure “dilation-and-extraction,” and defended its use to “protect” the health of mothers as a late-term abortion procedure.
“Perhaps, if you were to talk about what you probably know as ‘dilation-and-extraction’ – which is a procedure used by OB-GYNs like my wife – to care for a woman who is having a difficult pregnancy where there’s a chance that the fetus will not survive, then we could talk about that,” he said.