- - Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Joe Biden has held a consistent, if consistently incoherent, position on abortion for decades. Singing from the same hymnal as many other Roman Catholic Democrats, the onetime U.S. senator for Delaware and vice president of the United States, professes that for religious reasons he is “personally” opposed to abortion. Yet — and here’s the twist — he does not want to prohibit the procedure. “My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have a right to impose my view on the rest of society,” he put it in his memoir, “Promises to Keep,” in 2007.

It’s an affront to logic, to be sure. If someone truly believes that abortion snuffs out a human life, as Mr. Biden’s faith teaches, it makes no sense to support making it legal. It’s as illogical as saying he’s “personally” opposed to sexual assault, but thinks it should be legal anyway because he shouldn’t “impose” his sexual-assault views on everybody else. Only on as vexed a subject as abortion politics could a politician get away with something so transparently incoherent.

As part of the vice president’s views on abortion, Mr. Biden has opposed late-term government-paid abortions. This trying to have it both ways is meant to convey moderation, which is the former veep’s political calling card. “I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years,” he says in his book. “I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice.”

Mr. Biden has adjusted his view of government-paid abortions again. He’s for them. Though he voted for and supported the Hyde Amendment, as the law prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions is called, now he’s against it. “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,” Mr. Biden said last week at a fundraiser in Atlanta. “Health care” in this usage is euphemism for abortion. A surrogate for his campaign, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, says that “with these state laws moving quickly and these anti-choice judges being named it’s important for us to articulate that we oppose the Hyde Amendment.”

The argument for taxpayer-funded abortions begins with the assertion that there is a constitutional right to an abortion, as Roe v. Wade affirmed in 1973. But the argument further says that if a woman seeking an abortion cannot afford to pay for it she is deprived of that right.

This is perhaps the most illogical argument of all. This argument falls apart when it is applied to any other constitutional right. The Second Amendment guarantees each individual citizen the right to keep and bear arms. However, many Americans cannot afford to buy a gun. Should taxpayers be required to buy one for them?

The New York Times observed that Mr. Biden’s “reversal on Hyde is the second time his campaign has signaled a preference for caution but quickly realized how difficult that is in the current political environment. After an adviser suggested last month that Mr. Biden would seek a ‘middle ground’ on climate change, he was excoriated on the left, prompting him to present his green energy proposal earlier this week to demonstrate he is serious about the issue.”

The appeal of the former vice president is that he is a moderate who can appeal to centrists and maybe even a few disillusioned Trump voters next year. He’s running as the last good ol’ boy left in the donkey party. Will it profit him to move so far to the left to win the nomination only to be regarded in November as too extreme to defeat Donald Trump?

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