On Monday, Joe Biden announced his intended nomination for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary: Xavier Becerra.
Becerra formerly served in California’s congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves at the state’s attorney general.
As California Attorney General, Becerra has crossed paths with Alliance Defending Freedom—and not in a good way. ADF is committed to advocating for religious liberty, free speech, the sanctity of human life, and parental rights in courtrooms at every level, all across the nation. In just the last nine years, we have secured 11 victories preserving these principles at the U.S. Supreme Court.
One of those victories happened to be against Attorney General Becerra and the State of California—in the case National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra . And it’s one big reason to be concerned about Becerra’s nomination as HHS Secretary.
ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner summed it up in this tweet.
ADF had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to stop Becerra from forcing religious pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. He is an extremist who has no regard for conscience or protecting life. There’s nothing moderate about this pick. Nothing. https://t.co/4dD3npBO5v— Kristen Waggoner (@KWaggonerADF) December 7, 2020
That’s right. As the California attorney general, Becerra was trying to force religious pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry under California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775.
This California law required licensed pregnancy centers that offer free, pro-life help and medical services to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion. The disclosure had to include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The law also forced nonmedical pro-life pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even though it was irrelevant to the services they provide—and even though California did not require such a disclosure by any other type of nonprofit.
But pro-life pregnancy centers are dedicated to ending abortion, not advertising for it. These centers provide free practical resources, information, and emotional support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. They talk with these women about all of their options, and strive to be a safe place where women can find support. Often, pro-life pregnancy centers are the only voice telling women that they do have a real choice.
Yet, the State of California and Attorney General Becerra wanted to ensure that these women were overwhelmingly presented with one option: abortion.
That’s why ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the pro-life pregnancy centers it represents. And their case eventually made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Becerra never backed down on this pro-abortion, unconstitutional law.
Thankfully, in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of NIFLA , making it clear that the government cannot force people to express messages that conflict with their deeply held beliefs.
As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a concurring opinion: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express messages contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”
Biden has claimed that, if inaugurated, he will be a unifier and president for “all Americans.” But this intended nomination certainly doesn’t back up that claim.
The Constitution protects religious liberty and the right to free speech for every American, and our government officials should act consistently with those principles. Where these principles are threatened, ADF stands ready to defend them.
Because, as Justice Kennedy pointed out in the NIFLA decision, threatening any one of our constitutional liberties threatens them all. And we can’t allow that to happen.
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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore at Wikimedia Commons
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