Biden picks Becerra for HHS ... nuns and churches hardest hit?

Until now, most of the signals sent by Joe Biden on his Cabinet picks have tended to paint his strategy as moderation. Over the weekend, though, Biden appears to have pandered to progressives and especially to the Planned Parenthood contingent in the Democratic Party coalition. Sources claim that Biden will pick current California attorney general Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

That should have churches and nuns on full alert for the next four years. Becerra has long taken a hostile position toward conscience protections and personal choice, especially on the basis of religious belief:

Becerra would have a long list of priorities in tackling the pandemic, including expanding testing, improving access to personal protective equipment and distributing a Covid-19 vaccine. He would also be responsible for another top goal of the Biden administration — strengthening and building up the Affordable Care Act. …

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.

He has also filed suit against the HHS for allowing health workers and hospitals to decline to provide medical treatment that conflicts with their religious and moral beliefs. He has also filed suits against broadening exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance plans cover contraception without a copay, and removing LGBTQ people from the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination protections.

Just two weeks ago, the Ninth Circuit heard one of those cases, in which Alliance Defending Freedom tried to push back — hard — against abortion mandates. In this case, Becerra teamed up with Planned Parenthood to go after conscientious objectors to the state’s demand that all employers provide paid abortion coverage. That includes churches, who sued the state to overturn Becerra’s enforcement:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Friday in the case of California churches against the state’s abortion coverage mandate.

“This is an ongoing injury,” said Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of churches before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.

Galus said that “each day that passes is another day that the churches are required to cover something that violates their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

ADF is representing three Christian churches which challenged a California state mandate that they cover abortions in employee health plans. The churches are Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino, and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.

Don’t forget, too, that Becerra chose to charge David Deleiden and Susan Merritt with fifteen felonies for their undercover journalism to expose Planned Parenthood’s profit off of the corpses of aborted babies. Even the pro-choice editorial board at the Los Angeles Times was aghast at that decision, arguing that California had never prosecuted activists for those tactics in the past:

Daleiden describes the effort as journalism, although his methods were decidedly not those employed by respectable reporters. He and Merritt allegedly concocted fake identities and business records to dupe Planned Parenthood officials into taking the pair into their confidence, and misrepresented themselves throughout. Nevertheless, as misguided as they were, their aim was to change people’s views on important and controversial issues — abortion and fetal tissue research.

In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.

That’s why the state law forbidding recording of conversations should be applied narrowly, and to clear and egregious violations of privacy where the motive is personal gain.

Make no mistake, John McCormack writes today at The Corner. Becerra’s appointment is a payoff to Planned Parenthood, and a harbinger of more hostility to conscience protections and religious expression. In fact, there’s no other reason at all to have chosen Becerra to run HHS, especially in the middle of the pandemic:

Becerra, a former congressman, has no experience working at HHS and no medical background. He has never been chief executive of a state, or even of a large, complex organization.

“Some medical experts, who have been pushing the Biden team to name people with medical or public health expertise to serve in health leadership positions, were caught off guard — and unhappily so — by the news of Mr. Becerra’s selection,” the New York Times reports. “One person familiar with that effort said people involved were ‘astounded’ by the selection of Mr. Becerra, and suggested that Mr. Biden elevate Dr. Murthy to a cabinet-level position.”

So why did Biden select the attorney general of California to serve in this critical role in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic?

So Becerra’s chief credentials are protecting the Affordable Care Act from (benign) legal threats and being “vocal” about “fighting for women’s health.”

To translate the Times, the primary reason why Becerra was selected is the issue of abortion.

It’s insane to choose Becerra in the middle of the pandemic. Democrats have accused Trump of politicizing health care all year long and demanded that he put doctors in charge of the effort. Biden’s first move after this is to put a political hack in charge, an attorney whose primary focus is abortion. So much for depoliticizing health care, eh?

Pro-life groups are already protesting the choice, and painting Biden as “extreme” again on abortion:

“Far from ‘uniting’ the country, Biden has proven yet again he is an extremist on abortion,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, of the pick. “Becerra is aggressively pro-abortion and a foe of free speech.”

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, tweeted on Monday that “With Joe Biden’s pick of AG Becerra for HHS Secretary, we are seeing him make good on his promise to become the most radically pro-abortion president in history.”

The question will be whether Senate Republicans gather enough momentum to block his confirmation. That might depend on the runoff elections in Georgia; if the GOP can keep control of the Senate, they might be able to unite against Becerra’s selection and demand that Biden choose a medical doctor instead. If Democrats win the runoff, they’d need help from Joe Manchin to stop Becerra. Keep an ear open to hear what Manchin might have to say about this choice for HHS, and perhaps West Virginians can start putting a bug in Manchin’s ear about it, too.

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