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Biden denounces Hyde Amendment, reversing stance on federal funds for abortion

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden holds a campaign event at the IBEW Local 490 on June 4, 2019, in Concord, N.H. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images/TNS)
June 7, 2019 12:04 am

ATLANTA — Joe Biden on Thursday reversed his support for the Hyde Amendment, a measure that prohibits most federal funding for abortion, after facing nearly two days of vigorous backlash from many in his own party.

Biden denounced the amendment in a speech before a Democratic National Committee gala in Georgia, where the Republican governor recently signed into law a far-reaching anti-abortion bill. A number of Republican-led states have passed restrictive abortion laws in recent months.

Biden cited those efforts, calling them “extreme laws,” as he explained his decision to change course on an issue that had been the latest example of Biden’s refusal to bow to Democratic Party litmus tests.

“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, who is leading the Democratic presidential primary race, has long publicly struggled with the issue of abortion rights because of his Roman Catholic faith, although he has previously said he supports codifying Roe v. Wade. Last month, he appeared to tell a volunteer for the American Civil Liberties Union that he opposed the Hyde Amendment, but his campaign said Wednesday that he had misheard the question.

The former vice president suggested that the amendment stands in the way of his goals of “universal coverage” and providing the “full range of health services women need” when in many states the ability to gain access to abortion coverage through other means — Planned Parenthood clinics, for example — is being curtailed.

The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding of abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and conditions endangering the life of the mother. It affects Medicaid funding of abortion, leading critics to argue that the measure puts a disproportionate burden on women of color.

Biden’s remarks Thursday followed an outcry from across the Democratic Party, and many of his primary opponents seized on the issue to draw contrasts with Biden, even if many avoided mentioning him by name.