Now that Joe Biden is widely expected to formally announce his campaign this month, his record on abortion is under intense scrutiny by members of the Democratic Party and left-leaning media outlets. On Friday, The New York Times’ Lisa Lerer outlined Biden’s evolution on abortion. The article frames Biden’s history as falling short of the current Democratic standard.
What is that standard? Abortion on demand, up to birth, for any reason.
“Some of Mr. Biden’s more moderate-to-conservative stances in his legislative record are raising questions in the party about whether he could win over an ascendant liberal wing eager to impose purity tests around issues of race and gender in 2020,” writes Lerer.
NARAL’s president Ilyse Hogue told the Times that, “anxiety is super high among women across the country,” and that “Joe Biden … is going to have to really get with the times and understand that standing with abortion rights is the middle, moderate position.”
Never mind the fact that abortion to the point of — possibly even after — birth is the most extreme position on abortion so, by definition, it cannot be the “middle, moderate position.” There is no more extreme stance on abortion than what the abortion lobby has turned into the standard Democratic position.
Biden Coming under Fire
Biden is under scrutiny for, among other things, having once voted to let states overturn Roe V. Wade, although he later voted against that. Biden’s spokesman, Bill Russo, defended Biden’s record on Roe by saying the senator had mounted “fierce opposition to the nomination of conservative judge, Robert H. Bork,” for the Supreme Court over 30 years ago, a move he claims was key to preserving the Roe precedent.
Although Biden has struggled to reconcile his Roman Catholic beliefs with his policy positions, he told the magazine America: the Jesuit Review in 2015, “I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God-fearing, non-God-fearing people that have a different view.”
Biden, Al Gore, and many other Democrats used to oppose government funding of abortion. “It’s not the government’s business,” Biden explained more than three decades ago. He voted repeatedly for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from directly funding abortions.
Yet he was more pro-life than the hands-off position. The New York Times reports Biden’s stance in 1997 on a bill to ban partial-birth abortions: “‘It did not, as I would have liked, ban all post-viability abortions,’ he said, backing a proposal by Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic majority leader, that would include an exception if the mother’s health was at risk. ‘I was and still am concerned that in banning on partial-birth abortions, we do not go far enough.’”
Not supporting abortion on demand after viability would be an immediate disqualifier for any federally elected Democrat just two decades later, yet if a governor implies children born alive after attempted abortion don’t have the right to live, it’s just another controversy to weather until the news cycle runs its course.
Biden now says “government doesn’t have ‘a right to tell other people that women, they can’t control their body.’” The former vice president’s personal evolution on abortion is a microcosm of a greater shift in the national politics of both parties. Democrats’ radicalism has dragged Republicans down. With a Republican-controlled Congress and Republican president in 2017-2018, they should have been able to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, but due to the moral cowardice of two Republicans—Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins—they could not. Just three Democratic senators braved the wrath of their party to vote in favor of the bill.
A Shift in Rhetoric and Beliefs
Scientists know more about life in the womb now than ever before, yet Democratic politicians are more radically pro-abortion than ever before, relying on nonsensical philosophical arguments instead of science. Republicans have accommodated the shift, in voting records if not in campaign rhetoric—bringing anything more restrictive than a 2o-week ban to Congress’s floor for a vote would be unthinkable.
Indeed, when do facts ever get in the way of progress? This is a heart matter, first and foremost, but the lure of campaign funding and sheer bully tactics have pressured Democrats to toe the line. The brutal tyrants of the culture of death have beaten the donkey into submission. Instead of pushing for state nullification of Roe like the slavery abolitionists, the elephant is lumbering along behind that donkey like another mindless pack animal.
If science can’t convince people who have access on demand to every expert in the country, as federally elected officials do, would pressure from voters make a difference?
Late-term abortions are deeply unpopular with the public, with just more than a third of Democrats saying they support abortion through the whole pregnancy (22 percent) or for the first six months (13 percent), according to the latest Marist poll. So, two out of three Democrats don’t support the position of the vast majority of their 2020 presidential contenders, or the positions of the majority of Democratic senators and representatives, 81 percent of whom had a 100 percent rating from NARAL in 2017. Democrat-leaning voters have already shown it’s not important for their representatives to have a moderate stance on abortion, so the pressure toward moderation is virtually non-existent.
As long as Democrats can successfully divert attention to more popular policy positions, they won’t have a problem rounding up blue voters who don’t agree with the dominant abortion-on-demand, up-to-birth position. Claims that Republicans are heartless and want to keep children in cages and “take away your health care” are apparently enough to justify voting for an abortion extremist, if indeed Democrat voters bother to frame it as a justification at all.
If abortion is acceptable on some level, then it is not hard to stretch a tacit blessing over all forms of abortion to protect popular entitlement programs, increase federal education spending, combat climate change, or whatever other policy positions are more important to the voter. For “moderate” pro-choicers, it’s not an all or nothing moral issue; it’s some, or some more.
Catholics lean Democrat 44 to 37 percent and, like Biden, are in favor of abortion in all or most cases, 51 to 42 percent. If most of these generally pro-choice Catholics are in the Democratic Party, as common sense dictates they would be, why would they be more staunchly opposed to abortion absolutism in 2019 than Biden himself? Despite his reservations, wouldn’t Biden vote for whomever the Democratic nominee turns out to be, no matter how radical his or her abortion stance? He also appears to be shying away from defending the less radical parts of his record as he prepares to launch his campaign, not turning it into an appeal to religious Democrats.
It’s no wonder. Not many voters who are truly opposed to abortion in all its forms, or even with the traditional exceptions for rape and the mother’s life, exist in the Democratic Party. Only 21 percent say it should be illegal in “all/most cases,” according to Pew Research Center, and that umbrella covers much more moderate views than the aforementioned pro-life orthodoxy.
Given these realities, abortion absolutism almost certainly will not make a difference in deciding the Democratic nominee. Will it come into play in the general election, though? Sixty percent of independents take the general pro-choice position of “legal in all/most cases,” and six in 10 Americans support at least first-trimester abortion.
Party Leadership Won’t Become More Moderate
It may seem shocking to non-Democrats (and even some Democrats) that the party’s leadership has camped out on the far end of the pro-abortion spectrum. Although Democratic leadership is out of step with the public’s opinion and majority opinion within the party on abortion, it doesn’t really matter in itself, because abortion moderation isn’t a litmus test for moderately pro-choice voters. They are more likely to vote for someone who will “protect a woman’s right to choose” than someone they perceive as wanting to restrict abortion rights, which means Biden is at a disadvantage despite his past views being more closely aligned to those of the Democrat majority.
Instead, the probability of the extreme stance of the Democratic nominee being a bridge too far for any significant number of independents is going to depend on how persuasively Republicans frame the issue. Voting against protections for infants born alive after attempted abortion is a pretty egregious act. If the GOP can capitalize on this evil to show how heartless Democrats are regarding the most vulnerable citizens, they may successfully leverage the issue to keep Donald Trump in office.
Once again, however, we come back to the fact that Republicans in Congress haven’t made protecting the unborn a priority, and there is only so much Trump can do in the executive branch. If federal abortion policy is to move decisively in a pro-life direction, a great deal of effort must be poured into primarying lukewarm Republicans in the House and the Senate with true pro-life candidates, in addition to challenging Democrat incumbents.
Pro-life Democrats, of course, should push back hard against the abortion lobby or else leave the party. America will face a reckoning one day for the evil she has permitted and supported in abortion, just as with slavery. Both parties would do well to keep that in mind.