I can appreciate that former Vice-President Joe Biden is willing, so it appears in some respects, to speak his conscience and advocate for unpopular policy positions.
That said, his stance on abortion– upholding the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits use of federal funds for abortions with the exception of rape, incest, and the life of the mother) more specifically– troubles me.
Also, Biden recently “elicited confusion” — as The Daily Beast’s Emily Shugerman puts it— because, before changing his official stance today, he had voiced his support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment.
CNN’s Rebecca Buck reported by tweet today
The Biden campaign says he misheard this woman on the ropeline and thought she was referring to the Mexico City rule
(The so called “Mexico City rule,” as Planned Parenthood website explains, “prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”)
I cannot help but wonder, is this really what Biden thought?
While I don’t mean to doubt his honesty or his sharpness of thought, I ask because I’m not sure why he thought she was referring to the “Mexico City rule.”
The ACLU activist, who goes by Nina according to the ACLU tweet sharing the video– did ask Mr. Biden rather directly, “Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment which hurts poor women and women of color?” and he really had absolutely nothing to say about this policy other than to immediately emphasize how he’s “got a near perfect voting record my entire career” and to add “Right now it can’t be, it can’t stay. Thank you,” and then he walked away.
How aware was Mr. Biden of this specific interaction, and how genuine? To me, it comes across as (though I cannot prove it is) insincere, as if he was sort of mindlessly going through the rhythms of shaking hands, saying hello, and quickly acting on hasty guesses as to what he thinks the people want to hear.
Not that this is a unique problem among politicians and not that Biden should be singled out as the only one guilty of this. Still, between the dynamics of Trump’s electoral success in 2016 for appearing “different,” and Hillary Clinton’s failure in part for seeming like more of the status-quo, one would hope Democrats and sympathetic #NeverTrumpers have learned that politics in the last few years has been changing drastically. Likewise, the kind of politicians we are in need of has been changing.
More disconcerting though than Biden’s inability to appear especially genuine and cognizant of what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to is that his belief in upholding the Hyde Amendment disadvantages women who don’t earn much income.
As the Planned Parenthood website says, “When policymakers deny a woman insurance coverage for abortion, she is either forced to carry the pregnancy to term or pay for care out of her own pocket.”
Biden’s position is thus an affront to efforts made both by women’s advancement in society and efforts to promote the well-being of the economically insecure. Moreover, along with the basic unfairness of the policy, it contradicts conventional Democratic values.
Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren are quite savvy and pro-active on this point. Of the 20 plus candidates running in the Democratic Presidential primary, along with the 89 year old former Senator from Alaska– Mike Gravel (who is not making a substantial splash in the polls)– these two are the boldest when it comes to their protectiveness of abortion rights, making it clear that they believe it ought to be a matter of law that women be permitted to have abortions should they so choose.
In the process of evaluating Democratic candidates in the midst of this primary, Gillibrand and Warren put their exceptionalism thus far on full display. In contrast, Biden, the mainstream media sweetheart, seems to be either somewhat confused, trying too hard to play politics, or simply fails to demonstrate his awareness of the consequences of his continued support of the Hyde Amendment.