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Politics & Policy

Biden Walks Back Support for Hyde Amendment, Calls for Direct Public Abortion Funding

Joe Biden joins Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on a campaign stop in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2019. (Kyle Grillot/Reuters)

In the wake of intense pressure from his Democratic primary opponents, former vice president Joe Biden on Thursday announced his opposition to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits the direct federal funding of abortion, just one day after his campaign claimed he has never wavered in his support for it.

“I’ve been working through the finer details of my health care plan like others in this race, and I’ve been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” Biden said during a Democratic National Committee gala in Atlanta. “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.”

The former Delaware lawmaker attributed his sharp reversal on the Hyde amendment — which prohibits the direct federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother — to a growing concern about the possibility that Roe v. Wade might be overturned by a conservative Supreme Court majority, allowing certain states to pass “extreme laws” entirely eliminating abortion in their jurisdiction.

“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,” Biden said.

Biden’s views on the Hyde amendment captured the national spotlight this week after his campaign aides told NBC News that he remains supportive of the prohibition on the direct federal funding of abortion, less than one month after he told an ACLU volunteer that the amendment “can’t stay.” (The campaign later explained that Biden thought the volunteer was referring to the Mexico City policy, which prohibits the federal funding of non-governmental organizations that promote or provide abortion overseas.)

In response to the NBC News article, a number of Biden’s Democratic primary opponents vowed to work toward repealing the Hyde amendment if elected and said the former vice president’s continued support for the prohibition on the use of public funds for abortion would harm impoverished women.

“This isn’t about politics, this is about what’s right,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) told reporters after a campaign rally in Indiana. “The Hyde amendment should not be American law.”

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