Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Tuesday grilled President Biden's pick for Health and Human Services secretary, former Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), over his voting record on abortion.
"Most people agree that partial-birth abortion is awful. You voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Why?" Romney asked Becerra during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"I understand that people have different deeply held beliefs on this issue," Becerra, who served as California's attorney general after leaving Congress, said of the vote.
"And I respect that. As Attorney General my job has been to follow the law and make sure that others are following the law. ... I understand that we may not always agree on where to go, but I think we can find some common ground on these issues because everyone wants to make sure that if you have an opportunity, you're gonna have a healthy life."
Becerra told Romney he hopes "to be able to work with you and others to be able to reach that common ground on so many issues."
Romney responded: "I think we can reach common ground on many issues. But on partial-birth abortion, it sounds like we're not going to reach common ground there."
Becerra in 2003 voted against the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" which was brought to the floor by Republicans and permitted abortion "only in cases in which a women's life is in danger, not for cases where a women's health is in danger."
Partial-birth abortion is a phrase Republicans and religious conservatives have used to describe late-term abortions, procedures that take place after the 21st to 24th week of gestation. Such abortions account for about 1.3 percent of all abortions that were performed in the year 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research firm, found in 2019 that 43 states prohibit abortion in certain cases after a designated point in a woman's pregnancy, The Washington Post reported. Other states, under the authority of so-called heartbeat bills, have limited the point at which a woman can legally terminate her pregnancy.
Several Republicans also voted against against the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" in 2003 including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who will be voting on Becerra's nomination
GOP opposition to Becerra's nomination has been building, setting up his confirmation battle as a contentious one for the Biden administration.