Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
President Joe Biden’s HHS nominee Xavier Becerra denied Wednesday that he has sued any nuns, though he filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s administration arguing that employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor should not receive religious exemptions from an HHS mandate.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune asked Becerra how he could assure the American public that he will not fixate on abortion issues “when we got all these public health issues to deal with.”
Thune specifically referred to Becerra’s strong support for abortion as California attorney general, such as Becerra’s 2017 lawsuit against the Trump administration that sought to reimpose an Obama-era mandate forcing insurance providers to provide contraceptives. The Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor had fought the mandate, resulting in a lawsuit by the state of California.
The lawsuit is currently under consideration by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Becerra is listed as counsel in the 9th circuit ruling.
The mandate required that the nuns include cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives, and some abortion drugs in employer health plans, the Catholic News Agency reported. The nuns had said that the mandate violated their religious beliefs, since the Catholic Church teaches that abortion and contraception are gravely immoral.
“What group of Americans will they target next?” Becerra said in an early October 2017 statement on the matter. “Will they allow businesses to deny you cancer treatment? Will they exclude you from insurance coverage because of a pre-existing health condition?”
Thune asked Becerra Wednesday: “How do you assure us that’s not something that continues over from your time as attorney general?”
“I understand Americans have different deeply held beliefs on this particular issue and I absolutely respect that,” Becerra told Thune, adding, “By the way, I have never sued any nuns. I have taken on the federal government but I’ve never sued any affiliation of nuns, and my actions have always been directed at the federal agencies because they have been trying to do things contrary to the law in California.”
“It’s my job to defend the rights of my state and uphold the law,” he continued.
“What I will say to you is this, as I try to uphold the law, I recognize that people will look at these things a little bit differently and here is where I think there’s an opportunity and now as secretary of HHS, if I’m fortunate to be confirmed, working with all of you to try to see if we could find that common cause on how we move forward on this very, very difficult issue, but very important for so many Americans.”
Pro-life advocates and lawmakers called on the Senate Monday to reject Becerra as the president’s choice for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warning that he is “an enemy to every pro-life policy and law.”
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