Sunday, March 31, 2019

When Joe Biden Voted to Let States Overturn Roe v. Wade

New York Times (Mar. 29, 2019): When Joe Biden Voted to Let States Overturn Roe v. Wade, by Lisa Lerer:

In 1981, with an anti-choice President newly elected and Republicans controlling the Senate,  social conservatives pushed for a constitutional amendment to allow individual states to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The amendment cleared a key hurdle in the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 1982. Support came not only from Republicans but from a 39-year-old, second-term Democrat: Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I’m probably a victim, or a product, however you want to phrase it, of my background,” Mr. Biden, a Roman Catholic, said at the time. The decision, he said, was “the single most difficult vote I’ve cast as a U.S. senator.”

The bill never made it to the full Senate, and when it came back up the following year, Mr. Biden voted against it. His back-and-forth over abortion would become a hallmark of his political career.

Mr. Biden entered the Senate in 1973 as a 30-year-old man who argued that the Supreme Court went “too far” on abortion rights in the Roe case. He told an interviewer the following year that a woman shouldn’t have the “sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

By the time Biden left the vice presidency in early 2017, he was a 74-year-old who argued a far different view: that government doesn’t have “a right to tell other people that women, they can’t control their body,” as he put it in 2012.

Even before announcing a 2020 presidential candidacy, Mr. Biden has started trying to rebut concerns about his past stances, telling party officials in Delaware this month that he has “the most progressive record" of anyone running for president.

Abortion poses a particularly challenging issue for Mr. Biden. The Trump Administration's efforts to restrict access to abortion and a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court have elevated concerns among many Democrats that federal protections of abortion rights could be chipped away or eventually overturned — and that the next president needs to be a dependable ally on abortion issues.

“Anxiety is super high among women across the country,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Joe Biden is trying to carve out a space for himself as the middle, moderate candidate, and he’s going to have to really get with the times and understand that standing with abortion rights is the middle, moderate position.”

She added, “I can’t tell you if he’s there or not.”

Biden spokesman Bill Russo told the Times that the former vice president "is a supporter of the Roe decision who fought to protect abortion rights by mounting a fierce opposition to the nomination of a conservative judge, Robert H. Bork, to the Supreme Court in 1987."

But, the Times notes, "Mr. Russo declined to detail Mr. Biden’s current views on specific policies he once supported, including banning all federal funding for abortion services and research."

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