by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online raise concerns about the prospect of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra becoming the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, Biden has selected as his administration’s top health official a man who has no experience marshalling the forces of science. What California’s top lawyer does have is plenty of experience marshalling the forces of the state to crush religious dissenters, pro-life pregnancy counselors, and independent journalists.
Becerra has waged a legal crusade against each of these groups as attorney general. In 2017, Becerra filed felony charges against the pro-life activists and citizen journalists who had gone undercover to expose Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies to biotech companies. California is a “two-party consent” state for audio recordings, but the progressive L.A. Times editorial board called Becerra’s decision to file criminal charges a “disturbing overreach.” The law had not been similarly enforced against animal-rights activists who recorded undercover videos. One writer at Mother Jones called the Planned Parenthood videos “a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.”
Becerra has also zealously defended a California law requiring abortion coverage in insurance plans offered by churches — yes, churches. In January, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that California’s abortion mandate violated a federal law known as the Weldon amendment, which prohibits federal funding of states and localities that force health providers and insurers to participate in or cover abortion. Becerra announced California would not comply.
There are more examples of Becerra’s bizarre and misplaced extremism. In 2019, he aggressively opposed the merger of two religiously affiliated hospital chains in California because the resulting consolidated chain could reduce access to both abortion and gender-reassignment surgeries.