The announcement of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) comes at a critical time in our nation’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating death toll continues to mount and new case numbers continue to break records, with Black and Brown communities suffering the most. With nearly 18 million people in the country diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the year, including two million in California, the time is now for a tested leader who will listen to science and the needs of communities.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — a health care champion and staunch supporter of sexual and reproductive health — is that leader. As evident with the 100 lawsuits brought against the Trump administration’s harmful policies as Attorney General, Becerra has shown time and time again he’s committed to protecting and advancing reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, gender equality, racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, and health care access for all. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, a leading sexual and reproductive health advocate in the state, knows Becerra is an outstanding choice as HHS Secretary, and one who will help heal the nation’s communities who’ve long suffered at the hands of the Trump administration’s devastating actions.
A public servant for over three decades, Becerra has the managerial experience, policy expertise, and leadership skills to not only lead HHS, but to be a champion to protect and expand access to health care for all — no matter who they are or where they live.
- It is clear the American people want President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize COVID-19 and pandemic-related issues immediately. Additionally, and not surprisingly, nearly half of voters identified health care as another top priority for the incoming Biden administration, especially as it relates to changes and expansion around the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- As HHS Secretary, Becerra will oversee the sprawling agency, most notably responsible for managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and distributing vaccines. Becerra’s long history of not only continually protecting health care access as California Attorney General, but also developing the ACA as a member of Congress, signifies his breadth of knowledge and experience improving national and state health care systems during a critical time of COVID-19 response.
At the helm of the largest state justice department in the country, Becerra as California Attorney General has been a staunch sexual and reproductive health champion who understands the need to tackle inequities in our health care system.
- As California Attorney General, Becerra fought back against the domestic gag rule when it was proposed, including leading a coalition of 13 Attorneys General in submitting comments in opposition to the unethical and harmful restrictions of the rule. When the Trump administration finalized the gag rule, which ultimately forced providers like Planned Parenthood out of the Title X program, he again took quick action to defend affordable health care access by filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration as well as submitting an amicus brief in support of a similar lawsuit brought by the City of Baltimore.
- While Governors in other states were exploiting the pandemic to try to restrict access to abortion, Becerra continued his history of protecting access to safe, legal abortion. In addition to breaking down barriers to abortion access in a pandemic, over the course of his nearly four years in office, he’s filed nine amicus briefs in opposition to harmful state policies that posed dangerous restrictions to abortion access.
- Becerra filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s Healthcare Refusal Rule, which was intended to embolden health care workers to refuse access to health services they personally find objectionable, like transgender care, abortion, sterilization, and HIV/AIDS treatment. That rule is blocked in court — for now.
Becerra has fought to expand access to health care by championing and defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the greatest health advancement for women’s health and sexual and reproductive health care in a generation.
- As a Congressmember representing downtown Los Angeles, he was instrumental in developing and passing the ACA. Under the ACA, millions of Californians have gained health care coverage. As the largest state in the nation, California also had the largest reduction in its uninsured rate of any state.
- As Attorney General, he’s been called “one of the most important defenders of the Affordable Care Act” given his continual defense of the constitutionality of law when the Trump Administration refused to defend it, including a case that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Becerra’s been active in filing lawsuits and amicus briefs to protect the ACA’s birth control coverage mandate and sex and gender non-discrimination provisions.
While many of us are still reeling from the rash of attacks launched by the Trump administration over the past four years, Black and Brown communities—because of centuries of structural racism in the country’s economic, housing, education, and other policies—have been disproportionately impacted. Becerra understands the urgent need to tackle health care and societal inequities.
- He challenged the administration’s racist public charge rule, fighting to protect immigrant families from intimidation in accessing the health care coverage and other safety net programs they need to thrive.
- He led a multi-state coalition to protect the health of immigrant children being held in detention.
- He’s fought back against discrimination on the basis of sex, including joining an amicus brief in a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and continually defended the rights of non-binary and transgender individuals facing discriminatory policies in other states.
- He established the Bureau of Environmental Justice in California to fight back against environmental practices that disproportionately impact the public health and safety of the state's most historically oppressed residents.
As the state’s leading sexual and reproductive health advocate, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California stands ready to work with Becerra and the entire Biden-Harris administration on day one. Through HHS, President-elect Biden and his HHS secretary must:
- End the domestic gag rule that silences providers in the Title X program — the nation’s program for affordable reproductive health care — and modernize and build Title X back better for patients and providers, as well as end other attacks on abortion providers and patients.
- Roll back other harmful policies from the Trump administration — including the Trump birth control rules that allow employers to force their personal beliefs on employees, the refusal of care rule, and more.
- Go beyond stopping harm and start making progress for sexual and reproductive health and rights to ensure that all individuals regardless of race, income, sexual orientation, and gender identity are assured full access to quality health care.
- Protect people against the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of COVID-19 with comprehensive relief that invests in health care and safety net providers.
- Reckon with systemic racism, injustice, and state-sanctioned violence in this country, including progress on the Black maternal health crisis.
As the Spanish-speaking son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra shares the background of many of California’s communities, and communities across the nation. And, having served as California’s Attorney General since early in the Trump administration, Becerra has seen, first-hand, the experiences of the many communities who have been ravaged by the administration’s actions to deny basic human rights. Not only seen— he has defended those communities. From taking action to protect birth control coverage to defending DACA recipients, Becerra has been there standing up for reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, gender equality, and health care for all. As the next U.S Health and Human Services Secretary, he can take that same leadership he’s brought to California for over 35 years to the federal level. He’s the leader we need to help heal our nation and build a stronger, more equitable health care system.