Former Vice President Joe Biden described himself in 2006 as an “odd man out” within his own party on the issue of abortion, saying he made all sides angry with his approach.
Biden made the comments ahead of his 2008 presidential bid in a March 2006 interview with Texas Monthly. Video was later posted on YouTube in 2008 and reviewed by CNN’s KFile. The interview highlights how Biden has long staked out a more middle-ground approach on abortion rights compared to many in the Democratic Party.
Biden’s views on abortion rights faced scrutiny last week from advocacy groups and his Democratic rivals when his campaign announced he still supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal government funds from being used to pay for abortion except in cases of rape or incest and to save the life of the mother. Amid the criticism, Biden then quickly reversed his long-held position but said it was Republican attacks on Roe v. Wade – not political pressure – that led him to change course.
In the 2006 video, Biden called himself the “odd man out” in the Democratic Party on the issue because of his votes to limit government funding for abortion and votes in support of bans on certain late-term abortions.
“I’m a little bit of an odd man out in my party,” Biden said. “I do not vote for funding for abortion. I voted against partial birth abortion – to limit it – and I vote for no restrictions on a woman’s right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade. And, so I am – I made everybody angry. I made the right-to-life people angry because I won’t support a constitutional amendment or limitations on a woman’s right to exercise her constitutional right as defined by Roe v. Wade. And I’ve made the groups – the women’s groups and others – very angry because I won’t support public funding and I won’t support partial birth abortion.”
Biden also said he would have difficulty navigating the issue in a Democratic presidential field.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” Biden said. “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy, and I think that it should be rare and safe, and I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions. There ought to be able to have a common ground and consensus as to do that.”
“I think the vast majority of the American people think that can be done. But unfortunately, we’re put in the position, you’re either, ‘eliminate abortions under all circumstance’ or quote ‘abortion on demand,’” he added. “The fact of the matter is, I’ve never known of a woman having an abortion say ‘By the way, I feel like having an abortion.’ It’s always a tragic decision made. Always a difficult decision. And I think we should focus on how to deal with women not wanting abortion.”
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates did not directly address the former vice president’s 2006 comments when reached for comment, but said Biden supports abortion rights.
“Vice President Biden supports a woman’s right to choose and he believes that we are in a moment of unprecedented assault on choice in this country,” Bates said. “As president, he would fight to preserve Roe v. Wade and he has called for it to be codified into law,” Bates said. “Vice President Biden would nominate judges who would stand firm on upholding all of our constitutional rights, including a woman’s right to choose. If you look at his record on Supreme Court nominees you will see who he’s fought for — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and who he’s fought against — Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito.”
Biden said on Tuesday that he did not change his position on the Hyde Amendment out of political expediency, but instead was concerned about low-income women’s access to abortion services.
“The truth is, the majority of the American people agree with the Hyde Amendment, OK?” Biden said in an interview with Iowa’s WHO-TV. “So the idea that this would be helpful to change is not accurate in terms of being able to win an election.”
Biden’s position on abortion rights has put him at odds with liberal groups and some members of his party over the years, with pro-abortion rights groups opposing his stand against government funding of abortion. Anti-abortion groups have also attacked Biden for his opposition to limiting access to abortions.