Commentary

Xavier Becerra Attacks Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Conscience

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 6, 2021 | 5:48am EST
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks via video after President-elect Biden nominated him to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services on December 7, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks via video after President-elect Biden nominated him to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services on December 7, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has a record of attacking the freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Joe Biden has decided to name him secretary of Health and Human Services. They have shared values.

In 2018, Becerra filed a brief in the Supreme Court in the case of National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra. The question: Could California force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote government-funded abortions?

Specifically, a California law required pro-life centers to provide their patients with a notice that said: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (insert the telephone number)."

Becerra absurdly argued that forcing pro-lifers to deliver this message was not compelled speech — let alone contrary to the values of a pro-life pregnancy center.

"It is just one of a number of non-ideological notices required in the healthcare field, which will ... not interfere with their own message," he told the Supreme Court.

Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed.

"Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them," Thomas wrote in a 5-4 opinion. "One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly 'alters the content' of petitioners' speech."

"The licensed notice regulates speech as speech," Thomas stated flatly.

Becerra — as California's top law enforcement officer — was attacking the "freedom of speech" expressly protected by the First Amendment.

Becerra's failure to force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion did not stop him from similarly trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to act against their consciences by making them complicit in the provision of contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

When Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it included stealth language that said nothing about "contraceptives" or "abortion." What it did say was: "A group health plan ... shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for ... with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for purposes of this paragraph."

Under this language, President Barack Obama's HRSA issued regulations mandating that insurance plans cover all "Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."

All FDA-approved "contraceptive methods" include abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

Catholics — including the Little Sisters of the Poor — morally object to contraception, abortion and sterilization. Obama's rule would force them to act against their faith.

The Obama administration fought them in court over this regulation through the remainder of Obama's tenure.

Then, in October 2017, the Trump administration changed this regulation, creating broad exemptions that allowed people and organizations with religious or moral objections to avoid being complicit in providing contraceptives, sterilizations or abortions.

A number of states sued to overturn these new regulations. As attorney general of California, Becerra filed a brief against them in the Supreme Court.

These conscience-protecting regulations, Becerra argued, "were issued without statutory authority and violated the First and Fifth Amendments."

Thomas again disagreed.

"We hold today that the Departments had the statutory authority to craft that (religious) exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption," he wrote in another 5-4 opinion. "We further hold that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects."

When Joe Biden was campaigning, he made the most sweeping pro-abortion promises of any successful presidential candidate in our nation's history. He promised to federally fund abortion by "repealing the Hyde Amendment," restore "the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate in place before the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision," and use the federal Justice Department to thwart pro-lifers who try to protect the lives of unborn babies by passing laws at the state level.

"Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate Roe v. Wade," said his campaign website.

Xavier Becerra — if confirmed — will lead a Biden HHS that is focused on advancing the killing of unborn babies and funding that killing with federal tax dollars.

And Becerra, by the way, was also a co-chair of "Catholics for Biden."

(Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSNews.com.)

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