Congressional hearings to confirm the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) are set to begin this week and it is critical that the Senate confirm Xavier Becerra without delay. Becerra is a historic choice, a proven leader and a health care champion with the ability to tackle the many challenges our nation faces — from the COVID-19 pandemic to racial injustices embedded in our health care systems.
Becerra has the managerial experience, policy expertise, and leadership skills to not only lead HHS, but to protect and expand access to health care and reproductive rights for all.
Experienced Leadership to Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 has already claimed over 400,000 lives and the death toll continues to climb at an alarming rate. It is critical that the Senate move quickly to install Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary, to serve as our nation’s top health official. Absent and incompetent leadership from the previous administration has led to a bungled vaccine distribution system and health policy contradicted with lies and misinformation. With Becerra at the helm, we can expect greater federal coordination with states to ensure a more transparent and effective vaccine rollout. We can also look forward to other policies to help slow the spread of this deadly virus.
Becerra has a long record of protecting health care access as California attorney general. His experience helping to craft and pass the Affordable Care Act, the most consequential health care legislation in a generation, as a 12-term member of Congress, gives him the necessary knowledge and tools to improve national health care systems during this critical time.
Strong Support for Reproductive Health & Rights
Despite overwhelming public support for reproductive freedom, our reproductive health and rights have been under direct and sustained attack at the federal and state levels. The Trump administration worked to undermine access to coverage and care at every turn. Becerra is the staunch sexual and reproductive health and rights champion we need to reverse the damage done, and expand access to care.
As California attorney general, Becerra was a national leader in fighting back against the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back sexual and reproductive health access:
When the domestic gag rule on Title X, the nation’s only dedicated federal funding for affordable reproductive health care, was proposed, Becerra led 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 domestic 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.
He filed nine amicus briefs in opposition to harmful policies in other states that posed dangerous restrictions to abortion access.
He filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s Healthcare Refusal Rule, which was intended to embolden health care workers to refuse access to health care procedures they personally find objectionable, which could include services such as transgender care, abortion, sterilization, or HIV/AIDS treatment.
As HHS Secretary, Becerra could get right to work to end the domestic gag rule and modernize and rebuild Title X for patients and providers. He could also end other attacks on abortion providers and patients, like the refusal of care rule, and roll back the Trump birth control rules that allow employers to force their personal beliefs on employees. He could also ensure that all individuals, regardless of race, income, sexual orientation, or gender identity, are assured full access to quality health care.
Expanding Access to Care and Reducing Costs for Families
While in Congress, Becerra helped drive passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which expanded reproductive health care access to millions of people. It guaranteed pregnancy coverage and provided contraceptive coverage, with no out-of-pocket costs, for more than 62 million women. Becerra’s been called “one of the most important defenders of the ACA” and as California attorney general he:
Defended the constitutionality of law when the Trump administration refused to defend it, including in a case that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Filed lawsuits and amicus briefs to protect the ACA’s birth control coverage mandate and sex and gender non-discrimination provisions.
A Champion for Racial Justice
The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating death toll continues to mount and new case numbers continue to break records, impacting Black and Brown communities at a disproportionate rate. As the son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra, who would be the first Latino to head HHS, is deeply familiar with the challenges facing these communities across the nation during this deadly pandemic.
While serving as California attorney general during the Trump administration, Becerra has taken action to defend Black and Brown communities when 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.
Led a multi-state coalition to protect the health of immigrant children being held in detention.
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.
For more info on Becerra’s long record of fighting for health care access for all, read more from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. Please reach out to [email protected] if you have any questions.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.