“And as my wife would tell you as a OB-GYN, is that the dilation-and-extraction procedure that is often used with late-stage abortions with women, it’s to protect the health and life of that woman,” he said.
One pro-life leader criticized Becerra for denying a law’s existence as a top administration official.
“Now the top health official in America, Becerra outright denies the existence of a law banning partial-birth abortion since 2003,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stated on Wednesday.
“During his confirmation hearings, Xavier Becerra dodged questions about his stance on partial-birth abortion – when an unborn child is partially delivered and then killed – deflecting with repeated claims that he would ‘follow the law’ as head of HHS,” Dannenfelser said.
In his confirmation hearings, Becerra would not say why he opposed the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban as a congressman, only stating that he would work to find “common ground” with those he disagreed with on abortion.
On Thursday, he said that “dilation-and-extraction” is a term commonly used in medicine, while “partial-birth abortion” is not.
“I think most medical practitioners will tell you they understand what a dilation-and-extraction procedure is. I doubt that most of them could give you a medical definition of what partial-birth abortion is,” he said.
In response, Rep. Joyce said, “As a physician myself Mr. Secretary, I think I clearly understand what a partial-birth abortion is.”
Other members reacted to Becerra’s answer on Wednesday.
“If he won’t uphold the law on partial birth abortion, how do we expect him to uphold the Hyde amendment or protect conscience rights?” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) tweeted.
“It’s absolutely horrifying that the top health official in the nation doesn’t even know the laws he swore to uphold and protect. @SecBeccerra this is absolutely the law of the land,” Lankford said.
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On Wednesday, Becerra also repeated his claim that he “never sued any nuns” while attorney general of California. He first made the claim during his confirmation hearings, when he was grilled over the 2020 Supreme Court case of the Little Sisters of the Poor which pitted the sisters against Becerra.
While Becerra did not technically file a lawsuit directly against the sisters, he sued the federal government to take away the sisters’ religious exemption to the HHS contraceptive mandate. That action prompted the sisters to return to court to defend against threats to their religious freedom.
Becerra, in his testimony on Wednesday, praised increased funding in the 2022 fiscal year budget for the Title X family planning program. His agency is currently in the process of repealing pro-life funding restrictions in the program, with the aim of eventually allowing pro-abortion groups to once again receive Title X funding.
“The budget increases funding for Title X family planning programs to improve access to vital reproductive and preventive health services, and to advance gender equity,” he said.