President-elect Joe Biden has selected Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and we are thrilled. Becerra will be the first Latinx person to occupy this role, and, while he is not a physician, he has had loads of involvement in court cases protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and reproductive health and rights since becoming California Attorney General in 2017.
From 1993 to 2017, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving downtown Los Angeles. While serving in the House, Rep. Becerra was a steadfast supporter of reproductive freedom, always voting in support of better, safer, and more affordable access to reproductive health and rights in the U.S. and, through foreign aid, overseas.
Here are some reproductive rights highlights—most of them amicus briefs—from his past four years as California Attorney General:
- April 5, 2017: He joined an amicus brief in support of abortion-providing organizations in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio et al v. Hodges. The clinics would have lost their ability to participate in publicly-funded health programs in Ohio—even if those health programs had nothing to do with abortion—just by virtue of also providing abortions.
- October 6, 2017: He filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s attempt to expand the employer exemption to the birth control benefit of the ACA.
- March 4, 2019: He filed a lawsuit against Trump’s Domestic Gag Rule, which denies Title X family planning grants to public health clinics that provide abortion services—including counseling and referrals to other providers. Clinics that provide abortions must physically and financially separate those services from all other services in order to continue receiving federal grants, an impossibility for most cash-strapped public providers. Becerra has continued to resist the Domestic Gag Rule, filing a motion for a preliminary injunction, petitioning a lower court, filing an amicus brief in support of Baltimore’s challenge against the Trump Title X rule, and, most recently, petitioning the Supreme Court to review the policy.
- April 12, 2019: He led 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic in Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al. v. State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al. The lawsuit was in response to a Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy—a clear violation of Roe v. Wade.
- October 4, 2019: He led 20 attorneys general in filing another amicus brief in support of Jackson Women’s Health—this time, against a ban on abortions once a fetal “heartbeat” can be detected, usually around six weeks.
- December 3, 2019: He joined 21 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief rejecting the requirement in Louisiana that doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinics where they provide abortion services. The case under consideration, June Medical Services v. Gee (which later became Russo v. June Medical Services LLC because of a change in leadership at the Louisiana Department of Health), was nearly identical to Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which had been decided in favor of abortion providers in 2016.
- January 7, 2020: He led 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas. Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Leslie Rutledge was filed in response to several Arkansas laws passed in 2019, one of which outlaws abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy. A U.S. district court granted an injunction, temporarily blocking the law—this latest amicus brief urges the court to affirm its injunction, which Arkansas is challenging.
In short, Attorney General Xavier Becerra is a reproductive rights champion. We applaud Joe Biden’s decision to appoint him to Secretary of Health and Human Services and look forward to our country’s return to a respect for reproductive freedom for all Americans, regardless of their insurance coverage, residence, or income.