Joe Biden on Abortion

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Emma Green is back with a piece on Joe Biden’s view on abortion.  He supports the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortions through Medicaid.  Yet last night one of his campaign directors claimed that he was supportive of Roe v. Wade.  As I tweeted:

Here is a taste of Green’s piece at The Atlantic:

…he still supports the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old ban on federal funding for most abortions through programs such as Medicaid. As a senator, Biden voted repeatedly to keep this ban in place; in the 1990s, as NBC reported, he wrote a letter to constituents affirming that Americans who oppose abortions should not have to pay for them. The other leading 2020 Democratic candidates have taken the opposite stance, calling for Hyde to be repealed, along with other expansions of abortion rights. Perhaps in response to the Democratic field’s move to the left, Biden has recently indicated that he might be willing to protect abortion rights with federal legislation.

While most voters likely do not recognize the term “Hyde Amendment,” the issue of using tax dollars to pay for abortion is fairly clear-cut. Even people who support legal abortion, including Democrats, may not believe the federal government should be paying for it. Biden’s continued support for a ban on federal funding for abortion sends a different message: This is the moderate Democrat who voters have known for decades. Abortion-rights advocacy groups are already calling out Biden’s position on Hyde, but unlike other 2020 Democrats, he is not prioritizing to those groups’ causes. In part by emphasizing his fight for “the soul of the nation,” as he has put it, over and above divisive social issues, Biden is making a bet that he can appeal to the widest range of voters in a 2020 general election.

Frankly, I would like to see Biden define himself as a pro-life Democrat.  As I have argued before, it is the most consistent position for a party that claims to care about the weakest and most vulnerable human beings in society.

And by the way, it is also possible to be pro-life and pro-women’s rights.  I am with Jimmy Carter on this.

8 thoughts on “Joe Biden on Abortion

  1. Defining “pro-life” as anti-abortion is misleading. If a politician were pro-life and wanted to curb abortion, they would be trying to make birth control easier to access and support expanding access to health care and food stamps, against the death penalty, anti-war, trying to stop the spread off opioids, etc. But pro-life ends at birth, and Republicans do everything they can to reduce mortality of actual living people.

    To the other point, no, an anti-abortion Democrat would not be formidable on the national level. I’m not saying they couldn’t win, because elections are binary, but Republicans have won with the strategy of energizing their base. Crushing your own base in favor of trying to appeal to mythical independents would not work well.


  2. John,
    What has Casey practically done to support the pro-life cause? Nothing as far as I can see. Isn’t this just a facade for him?


  3. Thanks for this avbitw: I agree with much of what you say here. In fact, I made a similar argument in *Believe Me*. I think it would be next to impossible for a pro-life Democrat to survive the primary, but a pro-life Democrat would crush Trump in the general election. As to your second criticism, I have seen pro-lifers turn from a pro-life Republican to a pro-life Democrat. Remember, I live in Pennsylvania where Bob Casey defeated Rick Santorum. Last time I checked, PA is an important battleground state. Not naive.


  4. At this point, it is unclear what Biden’s actual position is on the Hyde Amendment. I suspect it depends on the day, and who is asking.

    In May, just a few weeks ago, as the WaPo reported, Biden said this in a recorded exchange with an ACLU activist:

    ACLU: “But I’m glad you just said you would commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment.”
    Biden: “Right now it has to be … it can’t stay.”

    But now, he’s flipped once more. So, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again. Those are his principles, and if you don’t like them, he has others. Biden’s plight: the modern D party — which supports unrestricted abortion on demand up until the moment of delivery — simply will not tolerate a pro-life candidate for President.


  5. “I would like to see Biden define himself as a pro-life Democrat.”

    Honest question. Why? I mean, I get the drive for intellectual consistency, but that’s simply theoretical. Let me expand with something I wrote recently about those seeking a pro-life Democrat:

    I would argue that the DNC is very pro-life and the GOP is very pro-death. Now, I’m not just talking about the fact that pro-life means womb to tomb (a factor that most of the “pro-life” movement has conveniently forgotten). No, I’m willing to limit myself to pre-birth issues only.

    With a few random outliers, no Republican office holder has ever done anything whatsoever — other than criminilization — to curtail abortion. In contrast, nearly every Democrat backs non-criminilization stuff that curtails abortion. Perhaps this is not their intention, but rather a side effect. But repeated studies have shown that this effect is very real.

    In short, both parties are lying through their teeth. Their words are significantly contradicted by their actions. Now I, personally, couldn’t care less what a politician says; I only care what they do.

    So why do you want a “pro-life Dem”? I can only think of two reasons:
    (1) You’re wanting someone whose words match their actions. While this would be nice, it also means that you’re wanting someone whose party would sink their electability chances before they even leave the gate, just because they “said” the wrong thing.
    (2) You believe there are people who vote Rep “because pro-life” who might consider voting Dem if there was a “pro-life Dem”. This strikes me as naive, as we’ve seen time & again that those folks are lying about how important the issue is to them. Sometimes, by their own admission (see that CT poll from back in October).

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  6. Joe Biden would show some integrity if he took a strong stand in the DEM primaries for the Hyde Amendment. He would also show a healthy measure of contrarian thinking in a party dominated by those who put abortion on a sacramental level.

    Joe Biden’s problem is that he is not a trend-setter or a particularly thoughtful man. My prediction is that he will continue to handle the abortion question with ambiguously worded responses crafted by his paid campaign writers. Of course, this tactic might not withstand the attacks of his fellow-DEMs once Mr. Biden mounts the actual debate stage.


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