President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Xavier Becerra as his Health and Human Services secretary. As Health and Human Services Secretary, Becerra would also make policy decisions on controversial social issues.
As attorney general of California, Becerra has fought Catholics and pro-lifers in court, including a loss at the Supreme Court in 2018, after the state tried to force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortion services.
Becerra had defended the state’s Reproductive FACT Act, a law passed in 2015 before his tenure as attorney general, which required pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. Pro-life groups claimed the state actively worked with the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) to craft the legislation.
Becerra represented the state in the court battles against the legislation, which reached the Supreme Court; the court in 2018 struck down the law as a violation of the First Amendment.
Becerra’s predecessor Kamala Harris now Vice President-elect, prosecuted journalist David Daleiden for his undercover videos claiming that Planned Parenthood unlawfully profited from the trade in fetal tissue of aborted babies. Becerra continued that fight in court.
Becerra also defended a 2014 state mandate that employers cover abortions in health plans, which did not exempt religious communities from the mandate.
In January, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that the state had violated the law in forcing groups to cover abortions against their conscientious beliefs. The office threatened to withhold federal funds to the state.
Becerra refused to comply with the HHS OCR demand. Now, if confirmed, he will be in charge of the entire agency.
As California attorney general, Becerra has led other states with Democratic attorneys general to file lawsuits defending the Affordable Care Act against the efforts of President Donald Trump’s administration to dismantle it. That includes a case currently before the Supreme Court.
Becerra, a prominent surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, represented parts of Los Angeles for 24 years before he was appointed California attorney general by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017, replacing Harris, who was elected to the United States Senate.
In 2018, Becerra was elected to a full four-year term as attorney general by California voters.
Becerra worked as a deputy attorney general for three years before beginning his political career as a state Assemblyman in 1990. He was elected to Congress in 1992.
The former congressman, emerged as a candidate as others Biden had considered fell out of contention, including New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.