The Obama administration forced many religious non-profits-including the Little Sisters of the Poor-to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and some abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
While the administration offered an "accommodation" to objecting religious groups, by which the groups were purportedly allowed to opt-out of the mandate, the Little Sisters and others still said the procedure forced them to cooperate in morally-objectionable contraceptive coverage.
The Trump administration ultimately offered broad religious and moral exemptions to the mandate-which Becerra challenged and lost at the Supreme Court this summer in Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence v. California.
Biden has said he would restore the Obama administration's "accommodation" for objecting groups-thus possibly reigniting a court battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor. If confirmed, Becerra as Health Secretary HHS would be at the center of this battle.
The agency could also once again marginalize the religious freedom concerns of pro-lifers in health care.
Pro-life groups initially appealed to the Obama administration's health department following the 2014 California abortion coverage mandate. While the groups asked for the administration to enforce the Weldon Amendment against the state-which bars federal funding of health care groups that force the provision or coverage of abortions-the administration simply said that California had not violated the law.
There might also be fights over conscience protections in health care, under Sec. 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The section prohibits discrimination in health care and the Obama administration interpreted it to mean that gender-transition surgeries could not be denied by health care workers if requested.
The administration's "transgender mandate" was struck down by a district court in 2019, but Becerra's confirmation to HHS could resurrect that court battle.
The Trump administration extended conscience protections for health care workers in federally-funded health care, but Becerra could roll back those protections as health secretary.
Other pro-life policies advanced by the HHS in the last four years included new Title X regulations, mandating that any clinic receiving Title X family planning grants not refer for abortions, nor could they be co-located with abortion clinics.
The administration also instituted a moratorium on new aborted fetal tissue research proposals conducted at NIH facilities, defended religious adoption agencies from mandates that they work with same-sex couples, required separate billing of abortion coverage in federally-subsidized health plans under the Affordable Care Act, and expanded restrictions of abortion funding in U.S. global health assistance. Becerra would be expected to oppose all of these policies as health secretary.
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Becerra would need a majority of votes from the Senate for a confirmation. Control of the chamber is still undecided, with two special elections to be held in January in Georgia that will ultimately determine which party controls the chamber.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Monday morning that he would vote against Becerra's confirmation .
Dannenfelser said that the selection of Becerra "underscores the importance of winning in Georgia to prevent pro-abortion forces from taking control of the U.S. Senate."