Biden infuriates abortion rights groups with Hyde stance

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate Sanders nabs endorsement from Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Poll: Sanders holds 7-point lead in crucial California primary MORE infuriated abortion rights advocates Wednesday when his campaign confirmed he supports a policy that blocks Medicaid and other federal health programs from paying for abortions, making him the only Democratic presidential candidate to hold that position.

Biden's support of the Hyde amendment puts him at odds with party leaders, congressional Democrats and his 2020 competitors amid growing momentum to repeal the federal prohibition.

"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," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

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For other abortion rights advocates, Biden’s support of Hyde illustrates what they say has been his weakness throughout his public service career, calling him unreliable and inconsistent on reproductive rights issues. 

“Joe Biden has been disappointing on reproductive rights for decades,” said Erin Matson, a reproductive rights activist who has worked with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and co-founded Reproaction, an abortion rights group.

“I am disappointed to see that he’s failing to read the room with Democratic primary voters and the general public who are sick and tired of restrictions on abortion and old, out of touch white men trying to put restrictions on women,” she added.

The Hyde amendment was first passed more than 40 years ago in response to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a woman’s right to abortion. It’s been reauthorized in annual government spending bills ever since, with votes from Democrats and Republicans.

As a senator from Delaware, Biden once voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade. He also supported the Mexico City Policy, which bans federal aid to foreign organizations that provide or promote abortions.

Biden now says he would consider codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law in case the ruling is overturned by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. His campaign also said he would overturn the Mexico City Policy, which was reinstated in 2017 by President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE.

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But he has otherwise steered clear from talking about abortion, a topic consuming the Democratic primary as states pass some of the most restrictive bans ever seen in the U.S.

While Biden has condemned Alabama’s law, he hasn’t released a plan that details how he would address such bans as president or how his administration would expand access to abortion.

Democratic Presidential candidates including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren declines to disavow super PAC that supports her San Diego Union-Tribune endorses Buttigieg 'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate MORE (Mass), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe CNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor Bloomberg qualifies for South Carolina primary debate MORE (N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi Harris5 takeaways from Las Vegas debate California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandGinsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives Gillibrand PAC, End Citizens United launch effort to boost female candidates Clinton to honor Ginsburg at fashion designer's awards show MORE (N.Y.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) have all released such plans, a recognition that women are expected to make up the majority of Democratic primary voters in 2020.

“I think he’s frankly out of touch, not just with where other candidates are, but out of touch with where American voters are,” said Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All* Above All Action Fund, an advocacy group that lobbies to expand abortion access and eliminate funding bans.

A recent poll from Morning Consult shows Democratic voters care more about women’s issues in the wake of restrictive state laws.

“The other candidates have recognized we are in a crisis moment in this country,” Lopez said.

With Biden atop the Democratic field in most national polls, his fellow White House hopefuls were quick to weigh in on Wednesday.

Warren and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNevada Democratic debate draws record-breaking 19.7 million viewers 'Where's your spoon?' What we didn't learn in the latest debate Ocasio-Cortez defends Warren against 'misogynist trope' MORE (I-Vt.), who have both campaigned on ending the ban in response to restrictive abortion laws in states like Alabama, took the opportunity to reiterate their positions.

“There is no middle ground on women’s rights,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday.

“Abortion is a constitutional right,” he said, noting that his “Medicare for All,” single-payer health care plan would “repeal the Hyde amendment.” 

Biden’s stance on the Hyde amendment highlights a lifelong struggle to balance politics with his personal beliefs on the issue.

As a devout Catholic who says he personally opposes abortion, Biden supported the Hyde amendment throughout his decades-long career in the Senate. 

So abortion rights groups cheered when he told an activist last month that he wants to end the federal ban.

But his campaign told The Hill on Wednesday that he misunderstood the question and doesn’t actually support ending Hyde, adding that he might be open to reconsidering in the future. 

If Biden wins the presidency, his stance on keeping the Hyde amendment could put him at odds with Democrats in Congress who want to repeal it.

A House bill that would end federal bans on abortion funding has the support of more than half of the House Democratic Caucus.

His position is also antithetical to the Democratic National Committee platform, which calls for a repeal of Hyde.

“This is a constitutional right for women to be able to access abortions and be able to make decisions about their own bodies, and the things that get in the way of that — particularly for those low-income women, for rural women, for women who live in states where those rights have been trampled on — is a serious issue for the entire country,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBand Portugal. The Man to join Sanders at campaign event in Tacoma Bloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements House Democrats' immigration bill would use tax dollars to import crime to America MORE (D-Wash.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Wednesday.

“I hope our presidential candidate will be bold about recognizing that,” she added.