Former Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd Thursday night he had changed his mind and now supports taxpayer-funded abortion, putting him in line on the issue with other major Democrats for the party’s presidential nomination.
“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,” he said, according to CNN.
Biden was the only major Democrat who backed the Hyde Amendment, a provision dating back to 1977 that prevents federal funds from being used to fund abortion, as Christian Headlines previously reported. Congress regularly reauthorizes it as part of spending bills.
The 2016 Democratic Platform pledged to overturn the amendment, but Biden had voted for it during his time in the Senate.
Biden maintained he was a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade yet said he opposed federal funds being used for abortions. Biden is Catholic.
“Those of us who are opposed to abortions should not be compelled to pay for them,” he wrote to constituents in 1994, according to NBC News.
He told a Catholic publication in the 1980s that “abortion is wrong from the moment of conception.” He said as late as 2007 there was a “sliding scale relating to viability of a fetus” in law.
Such comments had concerned pro-choice Democrats.
On Thursday, Biden said his position had evolved on federal funding.
"Circumstances have changed. I've been working through the final details of my health care plan like others in this race and I've been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” he said.
He supports universal health care coverage that allows lower-income women to obtain an abortion using taxpayer money, he said.
“I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to... exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said.
Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, tweeted: “Happy to see Joe Biden embrace what we have long known to be true: Hyde blocks people – particularly women of color and women with low incomes – from accessing safe, legal abortion care.”
Pro-lifers expressed dismay.
“Can’t run for President in the Democratic Party unless you’re willing to make opponents of abortion pay for abortions. That’s the orthodoxy. No exceptions,” tweeted Denny Burk, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Alex Edelman/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.