It was the stance that then-Vice President Joe Biden took during a 2012 debate: “Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” Biden said. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. . . . I do not believe we have a right to tell other people — women — that they can’t control their body.”
At the time, that blanket declaration was enough to satisfy most Democrats. It is not anymore — as Biden learned this week, when the man who leads all the polls for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination was thrown off balance on the question of government funding for abortion.
Amid an outcry, Biden within a day reversed himself, saying: “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to constitute — exercise their constitutionally protected right.”
Biden on Thursday said he changed his position in response to tough new laws that aim to virtually ban abortion in some states. “I have supported the Hyde Amendment like many, many others have,” he said, “because there were sufficient moneys and circumstances where women were able to exercise that right — women of color, poor women, women who were not able to have access — and it was not under attack as it is now. But circumstances have changed.”
If states continue their moves to ban abortion, however, and if they are upheld by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court, the ultimate end would be that abortion ceases to be available for anyone in many parts of the country.
The edges of the debate are being more sharply defined. When Biden last ran for president a dozen years ago, he boasted of having found a “middle-of-the-road position on abortion.” In 2020, he is discovering, such a place no longer exists.