One of the most compelling and intense moments from Senator Elizabeth Warren's Town Hall on MSNBC was prompted, unsurprisingly, by a question on reproductive rights. Rachel Maddow set the stage for the replay by reminding her audience that this took place in the very red state of Indiana, and against this backdrop, Chris Hayes asked Senator Warren about the Hyde Amendment (a full scale ban on funding for anything related to abortion services in federally supported health insurance.) Adding fuel to the fire of this question is that the current Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, supports the Hyde Amendment, and when it was first adopted, he fought against including exceptions for rape and/or incest.
HAYES: Women are making decisions about whether they're going to school, things like that. There is an interesting thing that happened today that former Vice President Joe Biden came out and said that he would not support repealing the Hyde amendment, that is a provision of federal law that bars the federal government from abortion services for Medicare, Medicaid, and others. You disagree with that position.
WARREN: Yes, I do.
HAYES: Is Joe Biden wrong?
HAYES: Why is he wrong?
WARREN: Here's how I look at this. I've lived in America where abortions were illegal.
WARREN: And understand this. Women still got abortions. Now some got lucky on what happened and some got really unlucky on what happened. But the bottom line is they were there. And under the Hyde amendment, under every one of these efforts to try to chip away, or to push back, or to get rid of Roe v. Wade, understand this. Women of means will still have access to abortions. Who won't will be poor women, will be working women, will be women who can't afford to take off three days from work, will be very young women will, be women who've been raped, will be women who have been molested by someone in their own family. We do not pass laws that take away that freedom from the women who are most vulnerable.
Senator Warren was visibly moved by what seemed like a combination of empathy, passion, and righteous anger. Joe Biden, on the other hand, seems confused. According to Rewire, at a campaign event last month, an ACLU volunteer asked him if he'd support repealing the Hyde Amendment, and he said he would.
“Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment, which hurts poor women and women of color?” she asked.
“Yes,” Biden said unequivocally. “Yes.”
But the volunteer did not let him get away with that, and she persisted, saying to him, “I heard you did [have a good record]. but I am so glad said you would commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment.”
“No, no,” he replied. “It has to be … it can’t stay.”
But NBC News confirmed today that Biden does, indeed, still support the Hyde Amendment and does not want to see it repealed, unless "abortion avenues currently protected under Roe were threatened." Um...permit me to inquire, what exactly does he think has been happening to Roe over the course of the last 20 years? The last 10 years? The last 3 weeks?
Biden says he's evolved on the issue: but even when Hyde was first passed, he was much more conservative than the rest of his Democratic peers.
In that 1981 vote, he was one of just two Democratic senators from the Northeast, the other being George Mitchell of Maine, to vote to end federal funding for abortion for victims of rape and incest. Fellow Catholics Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York as well as Democrats from other blue-leaning Northeastern states supported the exceptions. Biden voted in line with conservative Republicans like Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Democrats from red states like Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
That was then, perhaps, but even now, he is the only Democratic candidate who still openly supports the Hyde Amendment. After Senator Elizabeth Warren's eloquent exposition on the subject tonight — the clean lines she drew around the people who are hurt by the Hyde Amendment — Joe Biden cannot begin to claim to be an advocate for women while supporting the Hyde Amendment.