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Joe Biden’s long legislative record collided with Joe Biden the presidential candidate yet again this week, and the result was disastrous. But it is only the latest example of Biden and his lack of support for women since he entered the 2020 presidential campaign.
The first problem for Biden was a series of complaints about him inappropriately touching women over the years. After multiple failed attempts at making an apology about the situation, Biden settled into awkward self-deprecating humor that few found funny.
The second problem occurred when it was revealed that Biden apologized to Anita Hill for his handling of the confirmation hearing where she testified against Clarence Thomas’ nomination for the Supreme Court. The apology was offered 28 years after the fact and only weeks before he entered the race. Hill rejected Biden’s apology stating “I cannot be satisfied by simply saying ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’ I will be satisfied when I know there is real change, real accountability, and real purpose.”
Then, as the public criticism increased, Biden’s response made it worse. “To this day,” he said, “I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.” Of course, Biden was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee running the hearing when Hill testified and could have done just that.
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Now, it is Biden’s 43-year support of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits public funding of abortion, that’s exploded on the national stage. Biden’s longtime rationale for his support has been his Catholic faith. But, countless Catholic elected officials have long separated their personal religious beliefs with their responsibilities as public servants. Not Joe Biden. He clung to this position for almost half a century – until last week. Then he changed it in 24 hours.
How is that possible?
Biden claimed “circumstances” changed. Well, they certainly haven’t changed in the years since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal – a decision that has been under assault ever since. It was only three years after Roe that the Hyde Amendment was passed – and Biden supported it. And he continued to support it in the decades since, as abortion providers were attacked, maimed and murdered, as clinics were bombed, and as women routinely had to be escorted to their appointments due to threats of violence.
Biden’s support of policies that undermine women is a pattern, and that should concern women.
He continued to support it as Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri passed their bans on abortion. He continued to support it as scores of anti-choice federal judges were appointed to the bench.
It was only last Thursday that Biden changed his position, announcing in a speech that, “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s zip code.”
Well, women’s health care has always been determined by their zip code. If you’re a wealthy woman, then you can always get the health care you want regardless of the “circumstances.” And if you’re a poor woman, then you can’t get the health care you want regardless of the “circumstances.” That has always been true. And the Hyde Amendment has disproportionately affected the “circumstances” of poor women and women of color to receive the health care they seek and deserve.
Clearly, the only “circumstance” that has changed is the circumstance of Joe Biden as a presidential contender for 2020.
Biden’s campaign has treated him like someone in the witness protection program since he entered the race in April. Limited public appearances, a tightly managed schedule, carefully crafted TelePrompTer speeches, and avoiding the most progressive events. This approach has been relatively successful – until now. No amount of handling is going to change his record. That is the real problem with his candidacy.
The attack on reproductive rights is an attack on women and an attempt to make them second class citizens. Today it is abortion. Tomorrow it will be birth control. And the day after that it will be more steps being taken to deny more rights from women.
When women are denied the right to determine their own health care, then it is even less likely that other gains – such as pay equity, equal representation in the work place, and others – will occur.
When you support policies like the Hyde Amendment, as Biden did, and deny women access to health care, then you are treating them as though they are not equal partners in our society. That is unacceptable.
Once is a mistake. Twice is a problem. Three times is a pattern.
Biden’s support of policies that undermine women is a pattern, and that should concern women. As Anita Hill said “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change, real accountability, and real purpose.”
Every woman should use that measurement when they consider Joe Biden’s lack of support for women and whether to support him for president.