Biden Has Said That Abortion “Is Not a Choice and a Right.” Here’s Why This Matters

I don’t like the Democrats beating up on each other during primary season.

I don’t like name-calling or nitpicking past positions.

For the most part, I think Democrats should stick to positive campaigning during the primaries. Let us hear about their strengths, their vision, and their policy proposals. We’re bright enough to discern the differences between the candidates on our own without mudslinging.

And it should also go without saying that I would vote for any Democrat over Donald Trump.

However, I am starting to believe that we need to make an exception to the desire so many of us have for a solely positive-oriented campaign.

As Republican state after state enacts extremist abortion restrictions, we need a candidate who will fight fiercely, unambivalently for preserving abortion rights. We need a candidate that we can trust to stay on the right side of that issue.

I am deeply concerned about Joe Biden’s commitment to reproductive rights. I am becoming more and more sure that he is not the candidate we need to defend our reproductive freedoms.

Here’s why:

Joe Biden has long wanted to cast himself as a “moderate” on abortion. Ahead of the 2008 primaries, Biden bragged in an interview that he makes both pro-choice and anti-choice advocates angry because of his views on abortion. In a video of the interview (just released today) Biden described himself as an “odd-man out” on reproductive choice and said:

“I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. 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. There ought to be able to have a common ground and consensus as to do that..I think the vast majority of the American people think that can be done. But unfortunately, we’re put in the position, you’re either, ‘eliminate abortions under all circumstance’ or quote ‘abortion on demand.”

I’ve listened to enough women’s stories to know that abortion is not always a tragedy. I also think that the majority of the American people understand that there is a vast middle ground between “abortion on demand” throughout all of pregnancy and a complete ban on abortion.

Until last week, Biden still supported the Hyde Amendment. This law, originally passed in 1976, prevents federal government money to be used for abortions except in circumstances of incest, abortion, or when the health of a mother is at risk. By blocking federal Medicaid funding for abortion, when nearly 1 in 5 women of reproductive age uses Medicaid, the Hyde Amendment has resulted in denying low-income women from receiving abortion services since these women must either carry the child to term or find ways to pay for this care out of pocket.

The fact that Biden still continued to support this law well into 2019 should give us pause in judging his commitment to fighting for reproductive rights. In contrast, most of the other Democratic nominees were outspoken in their call for its repeal.

Last week, the president of NARAL released a statement that said that there is “no political or ideological excuse for Joe Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment, which translates into discrimination against poor women and women of color plain and simple” and that Biden’s position is dangerous for women and families “facing enormous hurdles and creates two classes of rights for this country, which is inherently undemocratic.”

It’s true that Biden reversed his support of the Hyde Amendment last week. He said that he is concerned that low-income women’s access to abortion is now being unprecedentedly threatened at this historical moment. It’s also true that he claims to support unequivocally women’s right to choose. He also voted to confirm pro-choice justices in the past, while fighting against anti-abortion justices.

I’m still skeptical. Women’s rights are under assault. We need a candidate who has been certain about where he or she stands when confronting those leading that assault.
We need a candidate who does view abortion as a choice and a right. We need a candidate who never strove for “middle ground” with those who wish to deny women of their basic reproductive rights.