A day after he reaffirmed his support for the Hyde Amendment, Joe Biden flip-flopped and announced he can no longer stand behind the law that bars federal funds for abortion services in most cases.
His reversal came at a Democratic gala in Atlanta—and after he was hammered by women’s and reproductive rights organizations like Emily’s List, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood.
In what was reportedly a late addition to his speech, Biden cited the erosion of women’s health services and new abortion restrictions in Republican-led states for his changed thinking.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without the access to care they need, and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” 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,” he added to applause.
On Wednesday, the Biden campaign confirmed to reporters that the former vice president, a Roman Catholic who personally opposes abortions but supports Roe v. Wade, was not in favor of repealing Hyde.
That put him at odds with 2020 rivals including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren—who slammed Biden for this stance, saying it put poor women at risk.
The 2016 Democratic platform also called for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has been in place since 1976 and applies to all abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.
“At a time when reproductive rights are under consistent attack, it’s unacceptable that a major Democratic nominee supports the Hyde Amendment,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement after Biden’s double-down on Wednesday.
“We hope that Vice President Joe Biden will reconsider this position and what it means to millions of women.”
When Biden took the podium at the campaign event Thursday, the group got its wish, but no mea culpa.
“I make no apologies for my my last position, and I make no apologies for what I’m about to say,” he said.
His press secretary, Jamal Brown, said in a statement that Biden’s about-face was an acknowledgement “that the circumstances have changed.”
“It’s clear these folks will stop at nothing to get rid of Roe—and it’s clear we have to be just as strong in our defense of it,” he said.
Abortion rights advocates quickly put out statements saying Biden did the right thing.
“Happy to see Joe Biden embrace what we have long known to be true: Hyde blocks people—particularly women of color and women with low incomes—from accessing safe, legal abortion care,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen tweeted.