Last month, Townhall highlighted the fact that Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra denied the existence of federal law when it comes to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carthart in 2007. Becerra has not only denied its existence multiple times before, he did so again, while before the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
The exchange took place between Becerra and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the founder and chair of the Senate's Pro-Life Caucus:
Daines: Is partial-birth abortion illegal? That's a question. Is it illegal?
Becerra: What I can tell you is that women in this country, under Roe v. Wade--
Daines: Is partial-birth abortion legal or illegal in the United States?
Becerra: Senator, again, we're going to get into this technical discussion.
Daines: No, it's not a technical discussion. It's a question, it's pretty simple. Is it legal or illegal?
Becerra: A woman has a right to receive abortion care.
Daines: So are you saying it's legal? A partial-birth abortion?
Becerra: What I can tell you without question is that a woman has a right to exercise--
Daines: As the Secretary of HHS, I would hope that you understand that Title 18 of the U.S. Code, § 1513, signed into law in 2003, states that partial-birth abortion is illegal. Do you agree with that?
Becerra: Senator, I can talk to you about the legal cases that have arisen as a result of that particular statute, but it's probably again better to say to you that a woman in this country has a right to exercise reproductive choice and we will defend that--
Daines: That doesn't mean breaking the law, which the code is very clear.
Becerra: We will never break the law.
Daines: So the question is is partial-birth abortion legal or illegal. It's not a trick question or a complicated question.
Becerra: Senator, I'll direct you then to the decisions the courts have issued with regard to that particular statute if you'd like, and that's why I continue to repeat to you, that what is the law is the right of a woman under Roe v. Wade to receive reproductive health care services.
Not only was Becerra in office as a U.S. Representative for California when the bill was signed into law, which he voted against, he also was in office when the Supreme Court upheld the law.
While Becerra claimed he will not break the law, it's worth pointing out that last month before a House committee, he spoke of the partial-abortion procedure in the present tense, as if he knew of anyone still performing that method. Although those previous remarks from Becerra were rated false by a fact-check, these comments from this week are identical to the talking points the secretary stuck to then.
The senator also asked about Becerra's position on the Hyde Amendment, which protects taxpayers from having to fund elective abortions. Sec. Becerra acknowledged that the question over Hyde protection "has arisen many times," yet his response amounted to noting a difference in beliefs, and that "my job is to make sure I follow the law. And when it comes to women's reproductive rights, we'll make sure we follow the law." What he did not acknowledge is that should the budget proposal pass, Hyde protections will be gone and Becerra won't have to follow the law on taxpayer funded abortions, because such a law won't exist.
Hyde protections have passed every year since 1976 with bipartisan support, including during the Obama administration, when Joe Biden was vice president. However, under the Biden-Harris administration, the $6 trillion budget proposal does not include Hyde protections, which members such as Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, have raised concerns over.
The budget proposal even replaces "women" or "mother" with "birthing people," something the administration has doubled down on. When questioned on the terminology by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Becerra was unable to provide a proper explanation on that issue as well.
Sen. Daines ended his line of question by noting:
Let the record reflect that the budget you presented to Congress to force taxpayers to send a blank check to the abortion industry to pay for abortions without limit, and you don't even know how many or what it would cost, and aren't even sure if partial-birth abortions are legal or not, even though the code is clear, or how many might be late-term abortions on children who can feel pain, and can survive outside the womb. Frankly, this is abortion extremism. I would ask that you please follow up on the record with these figures with the budget proposed.
Any such assurances that the secretary will follow the law ring hollow when he cannot even acknowledge it.