Biden in His Own Words – Abortion and the Hyde Amendment

By Emily Martin

Joe Biden simply cannot escape portions of his nearly 50-year record. His inability to bypass his past views on contentious subjects, such as abortion, is beginning to define his 2020 race.

Mr. Biden has gone back and forth regarding abortion rights. He supports them now, but has he always? No, he has not. Over his career, he has grappled with the inability to come to a decision. From abortion rights to his Catholic faith, he has swung back and forth within his career.

In 1973, at the start of his Senate career, he argued that the ruling of Roe v. Wade was “too far.” However, he later shifted to state that abortion should be legal, but without government funding. That stayed his position until the middle of 2019.

While in the Senate, Biden voted multiple times in favor of bans, including against partial birth abortion. And in 1997, he, with grief, stated that the legislation did not go beyond banning one form of surgical abortion. He said, “It did not, as I would have liked, ban all post-viability abortions. We do not go far enough.” With this, Democratic voters must be hesitant on his stances.

The Hyde Amendment was first passed in 1976. It was named for former Representative Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois. This amendment is renewed every year, with occasional edits to the list of exceptions it provides. It bans federal funding of abortion. However, it is updated with inclusion of exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Additionally, this amendment affects Medicaid funding of abortion.

A video, on May 8, 2019, was posted by the ACLU of a woman asking if Biden agrees the Hyde Amendment should be struck from spending bills. While, it seems that he said yes, his campaign came back to say that he misheard the question. However, the woman spoke the words “Hyde Amendment” to him twice. And, Biden said he continued to support this amendment. However, soon enough, his stance had changed.

For decades, and up until June 2019, Mr. Biden supported this amendment. But after several outcries and critical remarks, he reversed his position. Perhaps it was because it was clear that the only candidate in the Democratic field that supported this measure was him.

This turnaround was abrupt and happened within days. On a Wednesday, Mr. Biden’s campaign said he supported the Hyde Amendment. While on that Thursday night in a speech at a gala that was hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Atlanta, he stated differently. He said that he no longer supports a measure that bans federal funding of most abortions

It is important to note that Mr. Biden said, “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.” But, maybe it is more important to note that he made “no apologies for the last position.”

And perhaps Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, said it best, “It makes you wonder what else he’ll cave on.”