The Corner

Law & the Courts

Biden Flips Back to Supporting the Hyde Amendment

Joe Biden gives a pep talk to Dallas County high school students during a campaign event at the SPARK! educational center in Dallas, Texas, May 29, 2019. (Brandon Wade/Reuters)

NBC News reports:

[Joe Biden’s] presidential campaign confirmed to NBC News that Biden still supports the Hyde Amendment, a four-decade-old ban on using federal funds for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

Biden’s continued support for Hyde not only sets him apart from the rest of his 2020 Democratic competitors, but it may surprise progressive groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which promoted a recent tweet by one of its activists appearing to get Biden to commit to ending Hyde during a rope-line exchange in South Carolina. Biden’s campaign told NBC he would be open to repealing Hyde if abortion avenues currently protected under Roe were threatened.

Here’s the transcript of that exchange between Biden and an ACLU activist [emphasis added]:

ACLU Activist: I’m an ACLU Rights For All voter, and I have one quick question for you. And that is: Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde amendment, which hurts poor women and—

Biden: Yes…. Yes. And by the way, ACLU member, I have a near-perfect voting record my entire career.

ACLU: I heard you did. But I’m glad you just said you would commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment.

Biden: Right now it has to be… It can’t stay.

Biden clearly answered “yes” and “it can’t stay” when asked if he’d “commit to abolishing the Hyde amendment.”

Did Biden not recall what the Hyde amendment was when the ACLU activist asked him the question? The activist described it as a measure “which hurts poor women” and didn’t mention abortion. But every elected member of Congress knows what the Hyde amendment is. Did he look at the polls showing American voters support the Hyde amendment by a 22-point margin, and decide to flip back?

In either case, it is odd that the Biden campaign waited two weeks to clarify the candidate’s position after the Washington Post reported that Biden opposed the Hyde amendment. On May 19, Post reporter David Weigel flagged the video (posted on Twitter on May 8 by the ACLU) and wrote: “What has changed in the past weeks is that even Democrats seen as “moderate” have come around to the left’s abortion position. Pressed by an ACLU-trained voter in South Carolina, Joe Biden said he wanted to kill the Hyde Amendment, which he had voted for. ‘It can’t stay,’ he said, after being pressed twice.”

On May 20, I also reported that Biden had flipped on the Hyde amendment. I contacted the Biden campaign that day by email for comment but received no response. Two weeks later, the Biden campaign is telling NBC News that Biden supports the Hyde amendment, albeit with the confusing caveat that Biden would be “open to repealing Hyde if abortion avenues currently protected under Roe were threatened,” as NBC paraphrases his campaign’s statement.

Biden will surely be pressed at some point to clear up the confusion he created, but his official endorsement of the Hyde amendment is good news for pro-lifers. The more politicians who support the Hyde amendment, the better. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, “Since 1976, the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million unborn children.”

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