Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told a House committee this week that there is no law outlawing the practice known a partial-birth abortion.
Becerra's assertion likely came as a surprise to his boss, President Joe Biden, who voted for the law when he was a U.S. senator, and to the Supreme Court, which upheld the partial-birth abortion ban in 2007.
What did he say?
During testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee Wednesday, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) pressed Becerra on whether the Biden administration would uphold the ban. The lawmaker also asked the secretary if he believed the practice to be illegal, the Christian Post noted.
Becerra responded by denying that a legal ban on partial-birth abortion even exists.
"We will continue to make sure we follow the law," Becerra said. "With due respect, there is no medical term like 'partial-birth abortion,' and so I would probably have to ask you what you mean by that to describe what is allowed by law. Roe v. Wade is very clear. It's settled precedent, a woman has a right to make decisions about her reproductive health, and we will make sure that we enforce the law and protect those rights."
Bilirakis didn't let the secretary off easily and asked if he agreed with the ban on partial-birth abortion, to which Becerra responded, "There is no law that deals specifically with the term 'partial-birth abortion.' We have clear precedent in the law on the rights that women have to reproductive health care" (emphasis added).
Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa.) confronted Becerra on his claim that there is no law banning partial-birth abortion, pointing out that the actual section of U.S. Code dealing with the topic is titled "Partial-birth abortions prohibited."
Becerra ignored the language of the statute and responded by saying that though the term "partial-birth abortion" is "recognized in politics, it is not a medically recognized term."
He added that the focus should be on the "reproductive rights" and refused to even acknowledge the existence of the partial-birth abortion ban.
Ignored the facts
Becerra was clearly (and purposefully) ignoring the law that is on the books — and the fact that his boss, President Biden, voted for the bill in 2003, sending it to President George W. Bush's desk for his signature.
He also ignored the fact that the Supreme Court in 2007 ruled the ban is constitutional.
The relevant portion of the law — 18 U.S. Code § 1531 - Partial-birth abortions prohibited — not only uses the term "partial-birth abortion" in its title, but it also employs the term in the text of the law — and even provides a definition for the term, helping to avoid confusion or attempts to pretend it doesn't exist:
(a)Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself. This subsection takes effect 1 day after the enactment.
(b)As used in this section—
(1)the term “partial-birth abortion" means an abortion in which the person performing the abortion—
(A)deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and
(B)performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus;