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Xavier Becerra, a champion for reproductive health as California AG, will continue his fight for our rights as HHS secretary

WASHINGTON — Today, President-elect Biden announced his intent to nominate Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, as secretary of health and human services (HHS). He also announced that he would nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy to again take on the role of U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as COVID-19 equity czar, Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief medical adviser to the president, Jeff Zients as White House COVID-19 coordinator, and Natalie Quillian as deputy national coordinator of the COVID-19 response team. 

This announcement comes as the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating death toll mounts and new case numbers continue to break records. Nearly 15 million people in the country have been infected since the beginning of the year, and Black and Brown communities have suffered the most. Reproductive health and freedom are inextricably tied to safety from the pandemic, which has laid bare the crushing racial inequities in our health care system and society. 

With these selections, Biden begins to undo the damage President Trump inflicted on our health care system. Together this team of leaders can build a healthier, more equitable future; advance sexual and reproductive health care and rights in the U.S. and globally; and provide an effective,  science-based COVID-19 response plan. Biden’s choices are also in line with the Biden-Harris team's decision to nominate for positions Latino, Black, and other leaders of color who represent the multicultural population of the country.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“The American people want Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and advance and expand our reproductive rights — with these nominees, they are beginning to meet the call. Xavier Becerra is a staunch sexual and reproductive health champion who understands the urgent need to tackle inequalities in our health care system. As California’s attorney general, he fought back against the domestic gag rule and led the defense of the Affordable Care Act — a case that is now before the Supreme Court. 

”With the selection of Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Jeff Zients, and Natalie Quillian to lead the nation’s COVID-19 response, the president-elect has chosen a group of talented and experienced leaders who will finally help the country overcome this pandemic, which is wreaking its worst health and economic havoc among communities of color. As a core health care provider, Planned Parenthood stands ready to work with the Biden-Harris administration on day one.” 

Becerra, Murthy, Walensky, Nunez-Smith, and Zients have long histories of expanding access as health care leaders and working to dismantle structural inequities, and their leadership will be critical to the Biden-Harris administration’s work to address the COVID-19 health crisis, expand access to sexual and reproductive health care, and invest in health care and safety net providers. 

  • As California attorney general, Becerra fought against the Trump administration to protect the ACA and the Title X program, challenged the administration’s racist public charge rule, and defended a state law that required so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide accurate information to their patients. 

  • Murthy has already spent years as America’s doctor, having served as surgeon general under President Obama. He has proudly declared that access to abortion and birth control are essential components of health care. 

  • Dr. Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is an expert on virus testing, prevention and treatment who has conducted important research on vaccine delivery to underserved communities. 

  • Dr. Nunez-Smith, Yale University’s inaugural associate dean for health equity research, is one of the nation’s premier researchers on health equity with marginalized communities. 

  • Dr. Fauci, who will continue his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is the nation’s preeminent expert on infectious disease, and will continue serving as a trusted voice to the public during this pandemic 

  • Zients also served under President Obama, leading a crucial update of the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace before taking on leadership of the White House National Economic Council. 

  • Natalie Quillian served under President Obama as deputy assistant to the president & advisor to the White House chief of staff.

Through HHS, President-elect Biden and his HHS secretary must:

  • End the domestic gag rule that silences providers in the Title X program, the nation’s program for affordable reproductive health care. 

  • Roll back other harmful policies from the Trump administration — including the Trump birth control rules that allow employers to force their personal beliefs on employees, the refusal of care rule, and more.

  • Go beyond stopping harm and start making progress for sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

  • Protect people against the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of COVID-19 with comprehensive relief that invests in health care and safety net providers. 

  • Reckon with systemic racism, injustice, and state-sanctioned violence in this country, including progress on the Black maternal health crisis. 

Planned Parenthood is ready to work with these leaders and the entire Biden-Harris team — throughout this transition, on day one, and in the days, weeks, and years ahead — to advance the health and rights of all communities.

PPFA, as part of a coalition of more than 90 bold, progressive organizations, developed “First Priorities for the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice,” a detailed list of executive and agency actions on global and domestic issues it expects the Biden administration to get to work on immediately. 


Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.


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