President Joe Biden's pick for Health Secretary is taking heat from Republicans for his actions in support of abortion rights. They want to define him — and the new administration — as out of the mainstream.
The nomination of Xavier Becerra faces a key vote Wednesday in the Senate Finance committee. It's a test, too, for national groups opposed to abortion, trying to deny a president who favors abortion rights his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra is paying a price for defending, as California attorney general, some of the nation's most liberal laws and policies on abortion rights.
“It goes to show that California abortion policies are progressive enough that being associated with them is something that anti-abortion lawmakers want to make disqualifying for a Cabinet position,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, who specializes in the legal history of reproduction.
Nationally, the abortion issue appears in flux. Lawmakers in 19 state legislatures have introduced almost 50 bills this year to ban most or all abortions, according to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute. In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed a measure banning most abortions, though it was almost immediately suspended by a federal judge.
Abortion opponents are hoping that litigation over a state law will reach the Supreme Court, now clearly leaning to the right.