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The nation has been consumed by one of the most deadly and disruptive health crises in modern history. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the social and economic well-being of millions of American families, particularly in Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities. More than 500,000 people have died, and millions have lost their jobs. We’re in the middle of a health crisis and we need strong leadership now.

Yet 42 days into the Biden presidency, we still don’t have the top health official in the nation in place. That’s why, after weeks of obstruction from former majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate must swiftly confirm Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) so he can immediately get to work on behalf of the American people.

Becerra is a health care champion and a staunch supporter of sexual and reproductive rights. He’s a core part of the Biden administration's expert and diverse team of health leaders and has the managerial experience, policy expertise, and leadership acumen to not only lead HHS, but also defend and expand access to health care for all people. Becerra is also the son of a Mexican immigrant who can communicate in Spanish with the Latino community, an invaluable qualification for an HHS secretary at this critical time when Latinos are some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. 

At Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Latino Victory Fund, we fight every day to confront the underlying racial hierarchy that creates systemic health and wealth inequities across the country. These economic, racial, and gender disparities surged as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s policies. Generations of Latinos, including the youth, are suffering the devastation caused by the pandemic, with a disproportionate amount losing their livelihood, and lives. Decades of hard-fought economic advancement and gains in generational wealth took a shattering hit, in a crushing setback for the Latino community’s upward mobility. Latinas, who had made significant strides in the workforce, are suffering higher unemployment rates. And as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, Latinos face another inequity — they’re receiving the vaccine at lower rates than white people.

Even before the start of this pandemic, our health and reproductive rights were under direct and sustained attack at the federal level. Planned Parenthood health centers, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, and communities of color were targeted by the Trump-Pence administration at every turn. They attacked and undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA), imposed barriers to care, and fomented racial violence. The nation's COVID-19 pandemic and  long-overdue, racial reckoning have made clear that our joint mission of providing high-quality reproductive care in the Latino community has never been more urgent.

As HHS Secretary, Becerra will restore a level of care and compassion that has been absent at HHS for the last four years. As attorney general of California, he challenged the Trump administration’s racist public charge rule, and fought to protect immigrant families’ access to health care coverage and other safety net programs. He led a multi-state coalition to protect the health of immigrant children being held in detention and established the Bureau of Environmental Justice in California to fight against environmental practices that disproportionately affect the public health and safety of the state's most historically oppressed residents. Becerra will ensure that HHS doesn’t leave behind undocumented essential workers as the agency finally addresses the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of COVID-19. And he will design a bilingual, culturally-competent strategy to ensure Spanish-speaking Latinos and Latinas and immigrants receive the vaccine.

Becerra also worked to protect and expand access to sexual and reproductive health care as California’s attorney general. He fought back against the domestic gag rule that forced Planned Parenthood health centers out of the Title X program — the nation’s only dedicated program for affordable reproductive health care — and defended a state law that required so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide accurate information to patients. These protections are particularly important for Latinas and other women of color who face structural barriers to health care, and rely on reproductive health care services provided by women’s health care centers like Planned Parenthood. 

In his new role, Becerra will keep fighting to protect access to health care by maintaining and expanding the ACA to help increase access for the millions of people who already face significant challenges getting consistent and high-quality care. He will address high priority issues, including:  the maternal health crisis, strengthening the Medicaid program — which provides critical sexual and reproductive health care for millions of people with low incomes, including 16 million Latinos ; and roll back harmful policies like Trump’s birth control rules, which undermine coverage for the 17 million Latinas who have gained no copay coverage under the ACA. He is the health care champion we need.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Latino Victory Fund stand ready to work with Becerra and the entire Biden-Harris administration as they lead our country out of the COVID-19 crisis and into a future where our bodies, our health, and our future are our own. Confirming Xavier Becerra is essential to that mission. We urge the Senate to take up his nomination and confirm him as soon as possible. 

Alexis McGill Johnson is the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Nathalie Rayes is the president and CEO of Latino Victory Project.

Call Your Senators

The Biden-Harris administration has an incredible amount of work ahead controlling the pandemic, undoing the damage done by the Trump administration, and building a stronger, more equitable health care system. 

We need a health care champion who will protect and expand access to health care for all — no matter who they are or where they live. Senators must immediately confirm Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary. 

Call Now

Credit for image featured at top: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.com

Tags: Health Equity, Biden-Harris Administration, Xavier Becerra

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