Xavier Becerra Lies about Partial-Birth Abortion

Xavier Becerra responds to a question from Sen. Ben Sasse during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

The HHS secretary can’t plead ignorance on the topic. Partially delivering a baby and then suctioning out his or her brain is not only illegal; it’s utterly inhumane.

During a congressional hearing last week, in response to a question from Representative Gus Bilirakis (R., Fla.), our nation’s top health official, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, repeatedly denied the existence of a federal ban on barbaric partial-birth abortions that has been law for 18 years. Even under the most pro-abortion administration in history, where such shameless lies are par for the course, a new low has been set.

Pro-life advocates warned that Becerra was an especially vicious pro-abortion activist. In his confirmation hearings, Becerra dodged questions about his stance on partial-birth abortion, deflecting with repeated claims that he would “follow the law” as head of HHS. Now Becerra outright denies the existence of a statute that has been around for nearly two decades.

A trial lawyer known for suing the Trump administration more than 100 times in his role as California’s attorney general, Becerra can hardly plead ignorance on this topic. As a freshman congressman, he voted against the ban. As for Becerra’s parroting of the abortion lobby talking point that partial-birth abortion “is not a medical term,” neither is a heart attack, but almost everyone understands what one is.

Here is the definition found in the text of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush after being vetoed several times by President Clinton and finally upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 in Gonzales v. Carhart:

An abortion in which a physician deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living, unborn child’s body until either the entire baby’s head is outside the body of the mother, or any part of the baby’s trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother and only the head remains inside the womb, for the purpose of performing an overt act (usually the puncturing of the back of the child’s skull and removing the baby’s brains) that the person knows will kill the partially delivered infant.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that — nor should it be difficult to recognize that partially delivering a baby and then suctioning out his or her brain is not only illegal, but utterly inhumane.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban succeeded in prohibiting a method of late-term abortion so unconscionable that leading medical groups, the U.S. surgeon general, and even the prominent late-term abortionist Warren Hern agreed it could not be defended. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then the Democratic senior senator from New York and a supporter of legal abortion, deemed it “as close to infanticide as anything I have come upon in our judiciary.” Not only that, but as I recounted in my book Life Is Winning, the ban also transformed the American abortion debate — taking the pro-life movement from defense to offense. Lawmakers were forced to defend the extremes contained in their vague platitudes about “a woman’s right to choose.” This infuriated President Clinton, though unfortunately his opponent Bob Dole failed to maximize the political impact of the issue.

The battle against partial-birth abortion (which began years before the ban eventually became law) did much to educate the nation about the brutal reality of Roe v. Wade. Its lessons are still bearing fruit. A new generation of energetic pro-life leaders — many of them elected with the support of Susan B. Anthony List — is better equipped to fight back against the extremism of the Biden-Harris administration, with key legislation exposing the stark contrast between the Biden agenda and policies supported by the vast majority of Americans.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act highlights that the United States is one of only seven countries worldwide that allow late-term abortion for any reason after five months of pregnancy, a point by which unborn children can feel excruciating pain. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by Representative Ann Wagner (R., Mo.) and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.), would ensure that babies born alive during failed abortions receive the same medical care that would be afforded a premature infant born at the same age — a response to the outpouring of horror at New York’s expansion of abortion on demand through birth and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 2019 endorsement of infanticide.

The need for a national born-alive law is urgent. State health data reveal that, since 2019, at least 33 babies have been born alive after failed abortions across just four states (Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, and Texas). Of those states, only Minnesota indicates whether steps were taken to preserve the infants’ lives; many received “comfort care” and did not survive. In Texas late last year, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced an investigation into reports of babies born alive. Protections for babies who survive abortions are inconsistent across the United States, with fewer than half of states maintaining sufficient protections. We rarely know what happens to these children. However, more and more adult survivors of abortion are coming forward to tell their stories — people such as Melissa Ohden, who miraculously survived five days of being burned by saline in the womb.

Last month Representative Kat Cammack (R., Fla.) filed a discharge petition demanding a vote on the Born-Alive Act, which has been blocked repeatedly by Democrats in both the House and Senate. If 218 representatives sign the discharge petition, it will force the full House to hold a vote. Even if not, every single member of Congress will be put on record.

Back in 2003, 63 House Democrats joined 218 of their Republican colleagues in voting for the partial-birth abortion ban. Exemplifying the Democratic Party’s radical shift, today, not a single Democrat has yet come forward to sign the discharge petition and take a stand against infanticide. Several members who are up for re-election next year in some of the nation’s most competitive districts have not even signed on. There is no reason that protecting newborn infants should be a bitterly partisan issue. Every constituent should contact their legislators, and if they can’t draw a bright line at infanticide, they don’t belong in Congress.

Pro-abortion Biden Democrats are showing their true, radical colors. The pro-life movement must work relentlessly to educate voters and ensure that there are political consequences.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List and the author of Life is Winning: Inside the Fight for Unborn Children and Their Mothers.

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