Former Vice President Joe Biden announced late Thursday that he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment, one day after coming under fire from pro-choice groups and fellow Democrats for reaffirming through his campaign his support for the measure that bans using federal funds for abortions.
Biden told an audience in Georgia that he’d had a change of heart after decades supporting the amendment, motivated by a recent raft of “extreme laws” — including one passed by the state’s legislature just last month.
He now believes that the Hyde Amendment flouts the “constitutional rights” of people seeking abortion, he said.
“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 told the crowd.
A short time after the speech, Biden expressed a similar sentiment on social media, writing on Twitter that he could no longer support a measure that would retrench hardfought gains made by women over many decades.
“Women’s rights and health care are under assault in a way that seeks to roll back every step of progress we’ve made over the last 50 years,” he tweeted.
Women’s rights and health care are under assault in a way that seeks to roll back every step of progress we’ve made over the last 50 years. 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.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 7, 2019
The four-decade-old Hyde Amendment prohibits federal dollars from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.
In the past, Biden had said that only a drastic change in abortion access — a right guaranteed by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling — would lead him to renounce his support for the measure.
Draconian anti-abortion bills passed in various states over the past several weeks — measures that for all practical purposes represent a prohibition against abortion — represent just such a change, the former vice president said.
“Circumstances have changed. I’ve been working through the final details of my health care plan like others in this race, and I’ve been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” Biden said.
When Biden was asked last month at a campaign event rope line about whether he would commit to repealing the Hyde Amendment, he answered that “it can’t stay.”
His campaign on Wednesday corrected the record to say that he still supported Hyde, generating criticism from pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
Biden was roundly praised by some of his critics late Thursday for his decision to walk back his support for the amendment.
At the DNC event in ATL just now, @JoeBiden just said he *does* support the REPEAL of Hyde. Appreciate his willingness to listen and understand that Hyde is discrimination plain and simple. All women–regardless of financial status–have the right to control our own bodies.
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) June 7, 2019
Several Democratic president contenders also had called him out this week for not renouncing the Hyde Amendment, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Cory Booker (NJ).
After a two day long barrage of criticism, Biden told his supporters in Georgia that his past backing for Hyde was no longer tenable.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to … exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said on Thursday. “Folks, the times have changed.”
Biden added that, if elected president next year, he plans to “provide for the full range of health services women need” by expanding of Medicaid and offering a “public option” that would allow people to join Medicare.