Joe Biden’s quick change of heart over the Hyde Amendment damages the integrity of his campaign. He should not face peer pressure to adopt more liberal stances.
In 48 hours, Joe Biden went from supporting the Hyde Amendment to rejecting it. This fast reversal came after backlash from the liberal wing of the Democratic party. Giving in to peer pressure not only hurts Biden’s campaign, but it also illustrates the dangerous tug-of-war going on inside the party.
It is not terribly surprising that there is a wide range of opinions among the Democratic candidates. There are, after all, 23 of them. Their differences range in age, military service, socioeconomic status, and everything else, giving them different world views.
In America, everyone has the ability to be at the table. The inherent belief of the country is that everyone’s voice should be heard. However, when an opinion is being shot down as anti-democratic and wrong, that refusal to accept the view is itself anti-democratic.
Many people are focusing on what issue Biden changed his mind about. But that should not matter. It should be more alarming that a candidate is willing to bounce from one position to the next, doing whatever their liberal peers want them to do.
What is the Hyde Amendment?
Although the bigger issue here is the irresponsible refusal of several Democrats to accept Biden’s opinion, it is important to study the Hyde Amendment. The 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest. It also does not apply if the mother’s life is in danger.
Abolishing the amendment is widely popular in the Democratic Party. Many supporters view it as unfairly impacting women of color and low-income women, and an unconstitutional restriction on abortion in general.
Biden’s support of the law made him an outlying among other candidates. He faced criticism for not supporting every woman’s right to choose.
Bernie Sanders, the other front-runner for the nomination, tweeted, “there is #NoMiddleGround on women’s rights.”
Whether or not taxpayers should pay for abortions is a whole other debate. The real problem is how easily Biden was defeated by the attacks from the progressives. It demonstrates their growing power within the party, something that should be concerning to their more moderate peers.
Is it Okay to Have a New Opinion?
I am not saying Biden cannot change his mind. I would actually hope that, in 45 years of public service, his views have shifted. Reflecting on new experiences and being open to the fact that new information may contradict, or enforce, your opinion is healthy.
While adopting more popular stances is a solid political strategy, it can seem a little fake. In Biden’s case, changing his stance on abortion funding seemingly overnight was not the best way to go.
Perhaps he did not consider how the amendment disproportionately impacts certain women. What is more likely is that advisors told him Democrats were heading in that direction and he needed to follow it. But he does not appear to truly support it.
Biden’s stance on the more broad topic of abortion has shifted over the years. Biden is a practicing Catholic and, in 2007, said he believes life begins at conception. He has previously stated, however, that he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.
In 1981, he voted to remove the rape and incest exceptions for federally funded abortions. He does support Roe v. Wade, recognizing the decision as to the law of the land.
Biden’s shifting stance on abortion reflects the nation’s growing recognition of women’s rights. While there was something to be gained politically from this change, his more tentative support of abortion reflects the feelings of many other Americans.
The Political Spectrum
Political identities exist on a spectrum. The most basic range places independents between Republicans and Democrats. Obviously, it is not as simple as that.
There are centrists, conservatives, liberals, moderates, and extremists, to name a few. Despite the government functioning on a two-party system, there are other political parties Americans support, not to mention special interest groups and lobbyists.
The wonderful thing about Biden supporting the Hyde Amendment is that he offered a different view. He gave a voice to the part of the population that supports a woman’s right but does not necessarily want to fund it themselves.
The more liberal end of politics is unwilling to accept that people with these beliefs exist. In their minds, you can either support abortion completely or you are not on the side of women. There is no in-between.
Honestly, I was sad when I heard Biden switched his opinion. The attacks on Biden’s view were ultimately just politics. Yet, there is a diversity of opinions among Americans on every topic imaginable, including abortion.
It is dangerous to push away opinions and ideas that are different than your own. No single issue is black and white, or liberal and conservative. There is no clean political divide between Americans when it comes to gun control, abortion or any other debate.
No candidate should sacrifice what they believe in to fit the little box the establishment wishes their candidate to be in. It is much better to stand up for what you believe in because chances are there is someone who agrees with you.