HHS Secretary Refuses to Acknowledge Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban…Again

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For the second time, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra refused to acknowledge the federal ban on partial-birth abortions that he himself voted against when serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In hearings last week, Becerra avoided answering the point-blank question as to whether partial-birth abortions were legal in the United States, pointing instead to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which effectively legalized abortion in 1973.

As it happens, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed in 2003 and upheld by the SCOTUS in 2007, and Becerra’s refusal to acknowledge laws addressing partial-birth abortion last month earned him an unfavorable fact-check from Politifact.

This week, when pressed by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana several times to simply answer whether partial-birth abortion was illegal, Becerra refused, according to Life News.

“What I can tell you is that women in this country under Roe v. Wade,” Becerra initially said, before being interrupted by Daines who asked, “Is partial-birth abortion legal or illegal in the United States?”

“Senator, again, we are going to get into this technical discussion,” Becerra continued, but Daines yet again cut him off.

“It’s not a technical discussion, it’s a question. Is it legal or illegal?” the lawmaker asked.

“A woman has a right to receive abortion,” the secretary replied, only to be interrupted a third time by Daines who pressed him with the question, “So are you saying it’s legal? A partial-birth abortion?”

Becerra kept leaning on the so-called “right” to abortion, but Daines pointed to the 2003 legislation which states that partial-birth abortion is illegal, and asked Becerra if he agreed.

He did not appear to.

“Senator, I could talk to you about the legal cases that have arisen as a result of that particular statute,” the federal official, who voted against the act as a congressman, replied, “but what it’s probably better again to say to you is that a woman has a right in this country to exercise reproductive choice.”

He did affirm that his agency would “never break the law.”

When asked one last time if partial-birth abortion was illegal, Becerra replied, “Senator, I’ll direct you then to the decisions that the courts have issued with regard to that particular statue if you like, and that’s why I continue to repeat to you is that what is the law is the right of a woman under Roe v. Wade to receive reproductive health care services.”

In May, Becerra said there was “no law” that dealt with partial-birth abortion, telling lawmakers, “We will continue to make sure we follow the law. Again, with due respect, there is no medical term like partial-birth abortion, so I’d probably have to ask you what you mean by that to describe what is allowed by the law. But (the Supreme Court case on abortion) Roe vs. Wade is clear, settled precedent: A woman has a right to make decisions about their reproductive health, and we will make sure that we enforce the law and protect those rights.”

“And do you agree with this particular law?” he was asked by Florida Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis.

“Which law are we talking about, sir?” the secretary asked.

“The law concerning partial-birth abortion,” Bilirakis replied.

“Again, as I said, there is no law that deals specifically with the term partial-birth abortion. We have clear precedent in the law on the rights women have to reproductive health care,” Becerra answered.

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