Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra repeatedly refused Thursday to acknowledge that partial birth abortion is illegal in the U.S.
Becerra falsely denied last month that there is an existing law banning partial birth abortion, apparently forgetting the law that he himself voted against. His denial sparked a backlash among conservatives and pro-life advocates and prompted multiple senators to question him about the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in hearings this week.
During Thursday’s hearing, Republican Montana Sen. Steve Daines asked Becerra whether partial birth abortion is illegal several times. Becerra repeatedly refused to address the question or acknowledge that partial birth abortion is illegal and emphasized that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.
The law defines partial birth abortion as “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, performs this act, and then completes delivery of the dead infant.”
Daines pushed Becerra on the matter, asking, “Is it illegal?”
The law is the law—partial birth abortions ARE illegal.
— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) June 10, 2021
“What I can tell you is that women in this country under Roe v. Wade,” Becerra began, before Daines interrupted him, asking, “Is partial birth abortion legal or illegal in the United States?”
“Senator, again, we are going to get into this technical discussion,” Becerra said, but Daines told him, “It’s not a technical discussion, it’s a question. Is it legal or illegal?”
“A woman has a right to receive abortion,” the HHS secretary began again, and Daines interrupted him to ask, “So are you saying it’s legal? A partial birth abortion?”
When Becerra again began to discuss a woman’s right to abortion, Daines reminded Becerra of the 2003 law stating that partial birth abortion is illegal.
“Do you agree with that?” Daines asked.
Xavier Becerra is wrong.
Abortion is not healthcare. pic.twitter.com/ArYlFUONQh
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) June 10, 2021
“Senator, I could talk to you about the legal cases that have arisen as a result of that particular statute, but what it’s probably better again to say to you is that a woman has a right in this country to exercise reproductive choice.”
“We would never break the law,” he added.
Daines asked Becerra a final time whether partial birth abortion is legal or illegal, to which Becerra responded, “Senator, I’ll direct you then to the decisions that the courts have issued with regard to that particular statue if you like, and that’s why I continue to repeat to you is that what is the law is the right of a woman under Roe v. Wade to receive reproductive health care services.”
Republican Indiana Sen. Mike Braun also pressed Becerra on partial birth abortion during a Wednesday hearing, during which Becerra insisted that HHS would do “what the law permits us to do.”
In House testimony last month, HHS Sec. Becerra said ‘there is no law that deals specifically with the term ‘partial-birth abortion.’
There is. The Partial Birth Abortion Act passed in 2003 and he voted against it.
I asked Sec. Becerra today if he supports eliminating that ban. pic.twitter.com/7jgiTX2JHg
— Senator Mike Braun (@SenatorBraun) June 9, 2021
“If I’m doing my job, I’m following the law,” Becerra said. “And right now, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.”
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.