President-Elect Joseph Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. This is a worrying choice.
As California attorney general in 2017, Becerra filed felony charges against journalists who secretly filmed Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. In California it is against state law to record confidential conversations without the consent of all parties involved. Yet, as the LA Times pointed out: “It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy.” Similar acts by animal rights activists to secretly record illegal abuses of animals have not been met with such ferocity.
In 2019 he opposed the merger of nine hospitals operated by organizations affiliated with the Catholic Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These hospitals restrict access to abortion and gender-reassignment surgeries. Beccera opposed the merger due to the “potential to increase health costs, and potentially limit access and availability of healthcare services.” Yet, no hospitals would be closed after the merger suggesting that his opposition stemmed from the “access and availability” to abortion following the merger.
Under its abortion mandate California requires employers, including churches, to cover abortions in health plans. In 2020 the current HHS ruled that this mandate violated federal law and threatened to withhold federal funds to California unless the state stopped forcing groups to cover abortions. Beccera refused to comply with the federal demand.
Beccera’s policies as attorney general do not bode well for his tenure as HHS secretary because they strike at the heart of the Church’s teaching on religious freedom and sanctity of life.