- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2019

A senior adviser to Joseph R. Biden’s presidential campaign on Friday downplayed his about-face on taxpayer funding for abortion, likening his shift on the issue to his evolution on gay marriage and saying Mr. Biden is an authentic candidate who’s willing to listen.

“He’s the same Joe Biden last night that he is today — somebody that’s listening, somebody who’s authentic, and that’s what you’re going to continue to hear from him on the campaign trail,” Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN.

“Voters know who Joe Biden is,” she said. “He is someone that has these deeply personal held beliefs. He’s someone that believes in connecting with people, but he’s also somebody that believes in listening.”

Mr. Biden on Thursday said he could no longer support the Hyde Amendment, which generally bans federal money from paying for abortions.

He had long supported the ban, but abortion rights groups and many of his 2020 Democratic rivals are staunchly opposed, saying it disproportionately restricts access to abortion for lower-income and minority women.

Ms. Sanders likened his evolution on the issue to where he ended up on marriage equality. Mr. Biden in May 2012 came out in support of gay marriage, getting ahead of where the Obama administration had been on the issue at that point.

“If the vice president was bending to the whims of a number of my liberal activist friends, he would have [come] out for Medicare-for-All last night, but you heard him talk about a public option,” Ms. Sanders said.

As recently as Wednesday, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Louisiana Democrat, was defending Mr. Biden’s support of the amendment on CNN.

“I think the vice president has been very consistent over his career in the Senate since ‘76 when the Hyde Amendment became law that he is a deeply religious man — I think everyone knows that — and he’s guided by his faith,” said Mr. Richmond, a national co-chair of the Biden campaign. “And his position on the Hyde Amendment has been consistent.”

Ms. Sanders said there’s “nothing to reconcile” with Mr. Richmond’s statement and Mr. Biden’s shift, saying the congressman was “absolutely correct.”

“What you heard the vice president say last night, though, is that as we’re working through our health care plan, the details of our health care plan, he cannot justify locking out millions of women from coverage based upon their ZIP code,” she said.

She said she was with the vice president on Thursday.

“As he was working through his remarks for yesterday evening, he was very, very clear that this is a deeply personal thing for him,” Ms. Sanders said. “But he’s also very clear that he believes in making sure folks across the country have access.”

Mr. Biden on Thursday said he would make no apologies for his past position or for reversing course, citing new GOP-led laws imposing new restrictions on abortion as part of his rationale.

“Circumstances have changed,” he said. “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally-protected right.”

Last month, an ACLU activist had asked him if he would commit to abolishing the amendment, and he said yes and that it “can’t stay.”

Earlier this week, though, Mr. Biden’s campaign said he misheard the question and that he still supported the provision — before he again reversed himself on Thursday.

In his 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” Mr. Biden said he had stuck to a “middle-of-the-road” position on abortion for more than 30 years.

“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,” he wrote.

The Hyde Amendment dates back to 1976. It was intended as a compromise after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to say that even if women had a constitutional right to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for something many people found morally objectionable.

The language is now a staple in annual spending bills that Congress passes, meaning that sitting congressmen and senators running for president who say it needs to go have likely voted for it at one time or another — just like Mr. Biden.

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