Joe Biden backtracks on support for controversial ban on federal funding for abortions

Former vice president was criticised for backing Hyde Amendment 

Henry Austin
Friday 07 June 2019 01:30 BST
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After days of criticism, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has changed his mind and declared that he no longer supports a long-standing congressional ban on using federal health care money to pay for abortions.

The former vice president’s campaign affirmed earlier this week that the 76-year-old still supported the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of funds allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services being used to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

The Democratic front-runner defended his previous support for it. He said he supported it because he thought that there was wide enough access to abortion services without any Medicaid or other government support for it.

But following days of intense scrutiny and criticism from rivals, Mr Biden, who has struggled with the issue of abortion rights because of his Roman Catholic faith, backtracked on his previous stance.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Atlanta, he said that keeping Hyde would prevent poor women from exercising their constitutional rights to terminate a pregnancy.

“I’ve been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” he said, opening a speech dedicated mostly to voting rights and issues important to the black community with an explanation of a significant policy shift.

“I want to be clear: I make no apologies for my last position. I make no apologies for what I’m about to say,” he explained, arguing that “circumstances have changed.”

He also pointed to Republican-run states imposing new abortion restrictions.

The issue of reproductive rights has become an increasingly important topics among Democrats along the campaign trail amid a wave of conservative bans on abortions nationwide.

States like Alabama have passed bills so restrictive that most women will be banned from receiving an abortion before they are even aware of their pregnancy.

All of the female senators running for the White House have co-sponsored a bill to abolish the ban, including Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

Other candidates have also called for the amendment to be overturned, including Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke.

Critics of the Hyde Amendment say it discriminates against lower-income communities and people of colour who may otherwise not be able to pay for abortion services.

After Mr Biden reaffirmed his support for it, Ilyse Hogue, president of the nonprofit group NARAL Pro-Choice America said there was “no political or ideological excuse” for him to do so.

She added that discriminated against poor women and women of colour “plain and simple”.

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“Differentiating himself from the field this way will not earn Joe Biden any political points and will bring harm to women who are already most vulnerable,” she said.

Planned Parenthood also rejected Mr Biden’s support for the amendment.

“The unfair Hyde Amendment makes it so that those who have the least end up having to pay the most to access abortion, and those who are service members or live on reservations are often left with no coverage for abortion care,” they said in a statement.

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