Jessica Valenti

Biden’s Middle Ground Politics are Bad for Women

There is no room for a presidential nominee who’s behind the curve on abortion rights.

Credit: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

It makes sense that Joe Biden would try to distinguish himself right now. In a crowded Democratic field, the former vice president hasn’t exactly been doing a ton of campaigning. The time is ripe to shake things up!

Coming out as the only nominee to support the Hyde Amendment, however — only to be forced to reverse his position after public pressure — is not exactly the distinction many on the left would like to see.

The Hyde Amendment — which prevents Medicaid money from funding abortion unless the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest, or would endanger a woman’s life — is a discriminatory policy. It ensures that poor women who rely on Medicaid cannot access care, even if they need an abortion to protect their health.

Biden’s support for Hyde had put him far out of step with the other candidates, and with leading abortion-rights groups. Planned Parenthood calls Hyde “harmful” and “penalizing,” and NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said Biden’s then-position “further endangers women and families already facing enormous hurdles.”

That it took activists and fellow presidential candidates shaming Biden for him to finally change course — and that he did so with “no apologies” for his previous support of the amendment — makes it clear that he is (still) the wrong choice in 2020.

American women deserve a representative who cares about and understands their lives and the issues that impact them.

There is no room for a presidential nominee who doesn’t offer his full-throated support of abortion rights from the get-go. Not when the GOP is rolling back rights state-by-state in the most extreme way possible. Not when Republicans are talking about arresting and jailing women who have abortions. Not when the GOP has its sights on birth control.

American women deserve a representative who cares about and understands their lives and the issues that impact them.

Biden’s flip-flop on Hyde, like his never-ending comedy routine about the fact that he makes women uncomfortable, is just another sign of how out-of-touch he is with the current state of the Democratic party and what’s best for the country.

This is not just about abortion. It’s about a plan for America that doesn’t include compromising on our most basic rights and principles. When Biden insinuates that the country will go back to “normal” post-Donald Trump, or says that Republicans will be happy to work with a Democratic president, he is gravely mischaracterizing the state of our politics and culture.

White nationalists won’t stop marching in the streets when Trump leaves office, nor will Republicans suddenly stop passing abortion bans. The middle is not a safe place for anyone, but is certainly not a safe pace for women, for people of color, or the LGBT community, whose rights have been hammered away again and again under this administration.

The Hyde Amendment stands for a divided America — a country where people with money have certain rights, and people without it have none. I’m glad that Biden decided he couldn’t stand for it. But, given the war being waged against women’s bodies across the U.S., we shouldn’t feel comfortable opting for someone who’s still sorting out where he stands on abortion rights — especially someone who should know better.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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