Politics

Here’s How Joe Biden Has Evolved On Abortion As He Attempts To Become President

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Joe Biden is campaigning in 2020 as an avid supporter of abortion access.
  • But Biden formerly championed his Catholic faith as a reason for past pro-life votes in the Senate.
  • As recently as 2006, Biden said that he does not “view abortion as a choice and a right.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has taken a hard left stance on abortion access during the 2020 presidential campaign, in a major shift from his past positions on the issue.

Biden has long struggled with committing to one side of the abortion debate. As early as 1973, 30-year-old Biden said that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade had gone “too far.” He said a year later that a woman should not have the “sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

In March 1982, Biden helped lawmakers pass an amendment to allow states to overturn Roe through the Senate Judiciary Committee — an amendment that the National Abortion Rights Action League called “the most devastating attack yet on abortion rights.”

“I’m probably a victim, or a product, however you want to phrase it, of my background,” Biden said at the time, referencing his Catholic faith as to why he voted for the amendment. He added that the decision to vote for the amendment was “the single most difficult vote I’ve cast as a U.S. senator.”

He voted against the same bill the following year.

The former vice president voted several times for legislation in 1983 prohibiting federal workers from using their health insurance for abortions, with the only exception being for the life of the mother. (RELATED: Here’s Why Biden’s Supporters Think He Is Floundering In Iowa)

Biden told the Catholic Diocese Newspaper in March 1986 that “abortion is wrong from the moment of conception.” He also encouraged the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in their fight against abortion, saying that the “most effective pro-life groups are those who keep trying to push back the frontier.”

“I think medical science is moving the frontier back so that by the year 2000 we’re going to have more and more pressure, and rightfully so in my view, of moving back further and further the circumstances under which an abortions can be had,” Biden told the Catholic Diocese Newspaper.

And as recently as 2006, Biden said, “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right.”

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“I think it’s always a tragedy, and I think that it should be rare and safe, and I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions,” Biden said in an interview with Texas Monthly uploaded to YouTube in 2008. “There ought to be able to have a common ground and consensus as to do that.”

He added that most Americans think abortions could be limited, but that the country is in a position to either eliminate all abortions or to have abortions on-demand.

“The fact of the matter is, I’ve never known of a woman having an abortion say ‘By the way, I feel like having an abortion,” Biden said. “It’s always a tragic decision made. Always a difficult decision. And I think we should focus on how to deal with women not wanting abortion.”

His attitude and actions towards the Hyde Amendment are perhaps the most telling indication of how his views on abortion have changed heading into the presidential election. The Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger.

Biden supported the Hyde Amendment up until June, saying as recently as June 5 that he still supported Hyde. At the time, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg had pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment should they become president in 2020. (RELATED: Here’s Why Buttigieg Wants To Eliminate The FDA’s Warnings On Abortion Drugs)

Biden’s campaign confirmed to NBC on June 5 that though he supports Roe v. Wade, he still supported Hyde. The statement was greeted with strong backlash from pro-abortion groups, left-wing activists, and fellow candidates. The National Abortion Rights Action League spoke out against Biden’s stance, saying it “further endangers” those “facing enormous hurdles.”

Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Kelley Robinson warned Biden that his stance alienated him from the Democratic Party, saying in a statement that PPAF strongly encourages “Joe Biden to speak to the people whose lives are impacted by this discriminatory policy and reevaluate his position.”

Within 24 hours of reaffirming his support for Hyde, Biden announced on June 6 at the Democratic National Committee’s IWillVote Gala in Atlanta, Georgia, that he could “no longer support an amendment” that cuts off abortion funding, such as the Hyde Amendment. The former vice president cited attacks on abortion legislation from GOP lawmakers as a reason for his switch.

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris attacked Biden for his flip on Hyde soon after at the July Democratic debate. Harris pointed out that Biden only changed his stance on Hyde after he began running for president. She called his former stances on abortion “unacceptable.”

“Why did it take you so long to change your position on the Hyde Amendment?” Harris asked Biden. “Why did it take so long until you were running for president to change your position on the Hyde Amendment?”

“Because there was not full, federal funding for all reproductive services prior to this point,” he responded. (RELATED: Here Are The Democratic Candidates Who Support Over-The-Counter Abortion Drugs)

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The former vice president now presents himself as an avid supporter of abortion access. Not only does Biden say he would codify Roe v. Wade as president of the United States, he also says he would require judicial nominees to support Roe as settled law, repeal the Hyde Amendment, require private insurers to cover contraception, repeal the “global gag rule,” repeal the “domestic gag rule,” and preserve and protect federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a survey conducted by the New York Times.

Biden also said in the survey he would not even consider a running mate who opposes abortion access.

“Joe Biden firmly believes that women have a constitutional right to choose. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and should not be overturned,” a spokesman for Biden said in a statement to the Times, adding that “Vice President Biden has fought for women’s right to choose throughout his career,” and citing examples of Biden’s pro-abortion efforts in the Senate. The statement did not include any mention of Biden’s previous pro-life votes.

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