When Joe Biden won the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, some liberals and progressives had reservations about the former vice president's overall record on abortion rights — which could be characterized as pro-choice but anti-abortion. But with the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain to overturn Roe v. Wade, New York Times reporter Peter Baker writes in an article published on May 5, the 79-year-old Biden is being an unlikely defender of abortion rights.
"For President Biden, the threat to the landmark Roe decision represents a singular challenge as he attempts to put aside a long history of evident discomfort with the issue of abortion to transform himself into a champion of the constitutional right that may soon be erased from the law books," Baker explains. "Over the course of a half-century in national politics, Mr. Biden has rarely been the full-throated backer of abortion rights that activists have sought, evolving from an outright critic of Roe early in his career to a seemingly reluctant and largely quiet supporter."
Biden is known for being a devout Catholic, but whatever his own personal views on abortion, he has said, in recent years, that overturning Roe would be bad policy. And when he spoke on May 4, Biden tied abortion rights into other rights — essentially saying that if Roe is overturned, right-to-privacy rulings on contraception or gay rights will be in danger as well.
The president told reporters, "This is about a lot more than abortion. What are the next things that are going to be attacked? Because this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that's existed in American history — in recent American history."
Baker notes that Biden, at 29, was first sworn into the U.S. Senate in January 1973, the month in which the Burger Court handed down its Roe v. Wade ruling — and at the time, he said the decision went "too far." Biden, for many years, supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion.
"Mr. Biden, a practicing Roman Catholic, has struggled with the issue over the years," Baker observes. "A former aide said Mr. Biden would personally never have considered abortion if it came up in his own family but always made women's rights a priority, citing his success in enacting the Violence Against Women Act."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a centrist Democrat, believes that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be playing an important role on the abortion issue in the months to come.
Klobuchar told the Times, "I think that they will be leading on it. Of course, their voices will be really important."