“I find it personally disappointing that he doesn’t make it very, very plain that he is behind a woman’s right to choose as a constitutional right,” Hirono told HuffPost on Wednesday when asked about the stand taken by the former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Biden’s campaign reiterated his support for the amendment, which he voted for as a senator in 1976, earlier Wednesday in a report by NBC News. A Biden campaign aide told HuffPost that he would be open to repealing the Hyde Amendment if a woman’s “protected rights under Roe v. Wade are closed.”
Biden’s reaffirmation of support for the Hyde Amendment immediately drew comments from other 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who made it clear they support repealing the amendment. But most of Biden’s Democratic challengers refrained from directly calling out on the matter.
“I’m not going to tell him what to do,” Harris told HuffPost on Wednesday when asked if Biden ought to change his position. But, she added, she’d “never be in favor of a policy that denies women access to health care.”
Earlier this year, Hirono helped introduce a bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment and lift the prohibition in current law preventing women who receive their health coverage through government-sponsored plans, such as Medicaid and Medicare, from obtaining an abortion. The bill was supported by nearly all the female Democratic senators, including Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. But they, too, approached the matter cautiously on Wednesday by noting only where they stand on the issue.
“I think we will see nominees take various positions around Roe v. Wade. All will support the underlying need to protect Roe v. Wade,” Shaheen said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a Biden supporter who also co-sponsored legislation to end the Hyde Amendment, similarly gave the vice president a pass.
“I think this is up to him. He’s a man of faith, and that faith is well deserved. He’s had a lot of tragedy in his life,” she said.
Hirono, however, said she found Biden’s stance particularly off-putting given the passage of anti-abortion legislation across the country, including recently in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri. Asked whether it might preclude her from supporting Biden’s candidacy for president, Hirono said, “We shall see.”
Biden’s stance sets him at odds with the 2016 Democratic Party platform, which called for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president and a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, said it may be more of an issue for Biden now given that he is running for president. Abortion rights advocates and women’s groups, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, have already issued statements that criticized Biden, for example.
“I think it was less of an issue for interest groups looking at a guy who was going to be [vice president] versus someone who is running for president. But people are going to have to decide what they think about it,” Kaine said.