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Becerra Won’t Say If Baby Killed in a Late-Term Abortion Should Be Given Anesthesia to Lessen His or Her Pain

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 24, 2021 | 5:24pm EST
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California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who President Joe Biden has nominated to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, dodged a question at his confirmation hearing today about whether he believed an unborn child who is targeted for a late-term abortion should be given anesthesia to minimize the pain the child will suffer.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) asked Becerra the question.

“During the second trimester of fetal surgery, doctors may administer anesthesia to reduce pain experienced from the unborn,” Grassley said. “So, question: Do you believe it should be routine to also give anesthesia to unborn children during late-term abortion to minimize the pain that they are capable of experiencing?”

Rather than give a yes-or-no, Becerra gave a long-winded answer that talked around the question.

“Senator, you’re asking, I know, an important question, but a very technical question, and you’re moving into an area which I know carries with it deeply held beliefs where folks sometimes have differences, and I respect that,” said Becerra.

“I also want to make it clear that I respect the law and the science,” Becerra continued.

“And what I can tell you is that in my career of having worked to protect the health of all Americans—men, women, young, old--what I would do as secretary is what I have done as attorney general of our state, and that is, I would follow the law and expect others to follow the law,” he continues, “and while we may not always see it the same way in terms of how we get there on a particular issue, I will tell you that on health care, these challenges we have to confront for the American people. So, I would look forward to trying to reach that common ground with you and others.”

Grassley followed up, trying to get Becerra to actually answer his question.

“I think you made my question more complicated than I meant it to be,” Grassley said.

“I wasn’t asking if you were you for late-term abortions or not, I was asking about during that process whether or not you thought the baby ought to have painkiller in the process of that abortion like we have a requirement for fetal surgery, said Grassley.

“So, maybe you can’t answer that question but I didn’t mean to get into whether you support late-term abortions or not?” Grassley said.

Becerra again evaded answering Grassley question, only saying that he would “rely on the science and the experts.

“Senator, let me try to address that, if I can, more directly—it still might not be enough for you,” said Becerra. “But I tried to make clear that I would rely on the science and the experts as the secretary of HHS to help us make decisions to the degree that the agency has any role in making some decision related to that. I would rely on the science and the experts.”

Here is the transcript of the exchange between Grassley and Becerra about whether a baby undergoing a late-term abortion should be given anesthesia to diminish the pain the baby would experience:

Grassley: “I’ll bet you’re just waiting to talk about abortion. And I’m going to start with something that’s a fact. During the second trimester of fetal surgery, doctors may administer anesthesia to reduce pain experienced from the unborn. So, question: Do you believe it should be routine to also give anesthesia to unborn children during late-term abortion to minimize the pain that they are capable of experiencing?”

Becerra: “Senator, you’re asking, I know, an important question, but a very technical question, and you’re moving into an area which I know carries with it deeply held beliefs where folks sometimes have differences, and I respect that. I also want to make it clear that I respect the law and the science. And what I can tell you is that in my career of having worked to protect the health of all Americans—men, women, young, old--what I would do as secretary is what I have done as attorney general of our state, and that is, I would follow the law and expect others to follow the law and while we may not always see it the same way in terms of how we get there on a particular issue, I will tell you that on health care, these challenges we have to confront for the American people. So, I would look forward to trying to reach that common ground with you and others.”

Grassley: “Well, I appreciate that. And I think you made my question more complicated than I meant it to be. I wasn’t asking you were you for late-term abortions or not, I was asking about during that process whether or not you thought the baby ought to have painkiller in the process of that abortion like we have a requirement for fetal surgery. So, maybe you can’t answer that question but I didn’t mean to get into whether you support late-term abortions or not?”

Becerra: “Senator, let me try to address that, if I can, more directly—it still might not be enough for you. But I tried to make clear that I would rely on the science and the experts as the secretary of HHS to help us make decisions to the degree that the agency has any role in making some decision related to that. I would rely on the science and the experts.”

Grassley: “Okay. Thank you.”

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