The Joe Biden Record on Abortion

Senator Biden in 1974, when he condemned Roe v. Wade as too extreme.

President Joe Biden is a fascinating one for me, in that he is a bit of a historical relic himself. This could be interpreted as an insult since he is the oldest president in history, but it is also true that he arrived in the Senate in a very different time when the parties were far more ideologically diverse. Despite in his years in the Senate on numerous abortion issues being in the minority of his party, he has now rallied to the defense of Roe v. Wade. In 1973, Biden characterized himself as “about as liberal as your grandmother” on the issue of abortion and the following year he said, “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body” (Viser). As president, however, he has struck a different tune. In response to the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, President Biden stated, “The idea that we’re going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think, goes way overboard” (Viser). Biden today directly contradicts Biden from 48 years ago, and this I think is him trying to stay within the center, not of the American political spectrum, rather that of his own party. After all, it would be a very weird situation to have a president of a party at odds with almost every other elected official in said party. While President Trump went against most of his party in his opposition to sanctions on Russia, he also went against the entirety of the Democratic Party. If Biden were to stick to his guns so to speak on the Hyde Amendment and his old views on Roe, he would be siding with most Republicans against nearly all Democrats. But, what is the truth of Biden’s record on abortion? The truth is a bit muddy but Biden’s record as senator has certain consistencies, which will be revealed.

President Joe Biden now, who condemns overruling Roe v. Wade as too extreme.

I have consulted both Americans for Democratic Action and American Conservative Union archives for this vote selection, which is from 1975 to 2008.

  1. Allow Social Security Funds for Abortions
    Senator Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) motion to table the Bartlett (R-Okla.) Amendment, barring Medicaid funds to pay for abortions.
    Passed 54-36: D 38-16; R 16-18, 4/10/75. Biden – Nay
  2. Rejecting the Hyde Amendment
    Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) motion to insist on language deleting the Hyde (R-Ill.) Amendment, prohibiting the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions.
    Passed 53-35: D 36-19; R 17-14; C 0-1; I 0-1, 8/25/76. Biden – Nay
  3. Adopting the Hyde Amendment
    Senator Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.) motion to agree to the House prohibition on abortion, which has since been known as the Hyde Amendment.
    Passed 47-21: D 28-13; R 18-8; I 1-0, 9/17/76. – Biden – No vote.
  4. Prohibit Taxpayer Funds for Abortions
    Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) amendment, prohibiting funds for abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger. This would exclude rape and incest.
    Defeated 33-65: D 16-43; R 16-22, 6/29/77. Biden – Yea
  5. Stricter Language on Abortion Restrictions
    Senator Richard Schweiker (R-Penn.) motion to recede and concur with the House language on abortions funded through Medicaid, only permitting them to save the mother’s life, rather than the Senate language which also made exceptions for rape, incest, and if two doctors determined that continuing the pregnancy would result in physical damage to the mother.
    Rejected 33-51: D 13-38; R 20-15, 9/24/79. Biden – No vote.
  6. Stronger Abortion Prohibition
    Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) motion to table amendment deleting House-passed language prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortions except as necessary to save the mother’s life.
    Passed 52-43: R 33-20; D 19-22, 5/21/81. Biden – Yea
  7. Table Restriction of Use of Federal Funds for Abortions
    Senator S.I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.) motion to table the Helms (R-N.C.) amendment, restricting federal funds for abortions.
    Passed 47-46: R 19-33; D 27-13, 9/15/82. – Biden – Nay
  8. Adoption of the Hatch (R-Utah)-Eagleton (D-Mo.) Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, holding that “A right to abortion is not secured by the Constitution”.
    Defeated 50-49: R 34-20; D 15-30, 6/28/83. Biden – Nay
  9. Blocking Federal Abortion Funding
    Senator Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) motion to table the Weicker (R-Conn.) amendment, allowing federal abortion funding, permitting abortion funding in cases of rape or incest.
    Tabled 54-44: R 39-15; D 15-29, 10/3/84. Biden – Yea
  10. Table Senate Commendation of President Reagan’s Condemnation of Abortion
    Motion to table the Helms (R-N.C.) amendment expressing the sense of Congress that President Reagan be commended for his condemnation of abortion at home and abroad.
    Defeated 43-52: R 19-35; D 24-17, 8/8/84. Biden – Nay
  11. Permit D.C. Funds for Abortions
    Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) motion to table the amendment prohibiting the use of federal D.C. funds to pay for abortions, except to save the life of the mother.
    Passed 54-41: R 19-34; D 35-7, 11/7/85. Biden – Yea
  12. Weaken Restrictions on Funds for Abortion for D.C.
    Amendment weakening restrictions on the use of funds going to the payment of abortions except to save the mother’s life.
    Adopted 48-42: R 17-33; D 31-9, 9/16/86. Biden – Yea
  13. Permit D.C. Funds for Abortions
    Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) motion to table the Nickles (R-Okla.) amendment, prohibiting federal or D.C. funds for abortions unless the mother’s life were in danger.
    Passed 60-39: D 42-9; R 18-30, 9/30/87. Biden – Yea
  14. Prohibit D.C. Funds for Abortions
    Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.) motion to table the Bradley (D-N.J.) motion to disagree with the House amendment that no funds in the District of Columbia be used for funding abortions unless the mother’s life was in danger.
    Passed 45-44: D 13-33; R 32-11, 9/30/88. Biden – No Vote.
  15. Defeat Prohibition on Funding for China’s Forced Abortion and Sterilization Program
    Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) motion to disagree with a House amendment barring any funding for the UN Population Fund if the funds financed communist China’s forced abortion and sterilization program.
    Passed 52-44: D 38-12; R 13-32, 11/15/89. Biden – Nay
  16. Prohibit Funding for NGOs That Perform Abortions
    Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) amendment, excluding private, non-profit organizations that perform abortions from receiving taxpayer funds.
    Rejected 34-58: D 4-44; R 30-13, 9/25/90. Biden – Nay
  17. Prohibit Funding for NGOs Performing Abortions for Minors Without Parental Notification
    Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) amendment, prohibiting publicly funded organizations from performing abortions for minors without parental notification.
    Adopted 52-47: D 13-41; R 39-5, 7/16/91. Biden – Nay
  18. “Gag Rule” Repeal Veto Override
    Passage, over President Bush’s veto, of the bill allowing publicly funded family planning clinics to advocate abortion as an option.
    Veto overridden 73-26: D 51-3; R 21-23, 10/1/92. Biden – Yea
  19. Hyde Amendment Repeal
    Amendment repealing the Hyde Amendment.
    Rejected 40-59: D 32-20; R 7-39, 9/28/93. Biden – Nay
  20. Ban Peaceful Obstruction and Violent Intimidation Outside Abortion Clinics
    Passage of the bill making peaceful obstruction as well as violent intimidation outside of abortion clinics a federal crime subject to civil penalties.
    Passed 69-30: D 50-3; R 18-27, 5/12/94. Biden – Yea
  21. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, banning a late-term procedure commonly referred to as “partial birth” abortion, in which the fetus is delivered before the abortion is completed.
    Passed 54-44: R 45-7; D 9-36, 12/7/95. Biden – Yea
  22. Block Funds for Forced Abortions in China
    Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) amendment, blocking funds for the UN Population Fund unless the president certifies that the UNFPA has terminated all activities in China or that no coercive abortions continue to happen because of Chinese government policies.
    Rejected 43-57: R 40-13; D 3-43, 9/21/95. Biden – Yea
  23. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act over President Clinton’s veto, banning a late-term procedure commonly referred to as “partial birth” abortion, in which the fetus is delivered before the abortion is completed.
    Veto sustained 58-40: R 46-4; D 12-35, 9/26/96. Biden – Yea
  24. Repeal Hyde Amendment
    Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) amendment, repealing the Hyde Amendment.
    Rejected 39-61: R 4-50; D 34-11, 6/25/97. Biden – Nay
  25. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, banning a late-term procedure commonly referred to as “partial birth” abortion, in which the fetus is delivered before the abortion is completed.
    Passed 64-36: R 51-3; D 13-32, 5/20/97. Biden – Yea
  26. Allow Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals and Medical Facilities
    Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) amendment, repealing the prohibition on privately funded abortions at U.S. military hospitals and medical facilities for service members and their dependents.
    Rejected 44-49: R 5-46; D 38-3, 6/25/98. Biden – Yea
  27. End Debate on Prohibition of Non-Parents Transporting Minors Across State Lines for Abortions
    Motion to end debate on the bill criminalizing anyone other than a parent transporting minors across state lines to obtain an abortion.
    Rejected 54-45: R 52-2; D 2-42, 9/22/98. Biden – Nay
  28. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act over President Clinton’s veto, banning a late-term procedure commonly referred to as “partial birth” abortion, in which the fetus is delivered before the abortion is completed.
    Veto sustained 64-36: R 51-3; D 13-32, 10/10/98. Biden – Yea
  29. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Passage of the bill banning “partial birth” abortions, providing for fines and up to two years of imprisonment for doctors performing them, with an exception of if it was necessary to save the mother’s life, which existed in all prior versions.
    Passed 63-34: R 49-2; D 14-31, 10/21/99. Biden – Yea
  30. Retain Prohibition on Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals and Medical Facilities
    Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) motion to table the Murray (D-Wash.) amendment, repealing the law barring overseas U.S. military hospitals and medical facilities from performing privately funded abortions for U.S. service members and their dependents.
    Passed 51-49: R 49-5; D 2-43, 5/26/99. Biden – Nay
  31. Retain Prohibition on Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals and Medical Facilities
    Table amendment permitting abortions in military hospitals.
    Passed 50-49: R 48-5; D 2-43, 6/20/00. Biden – Nay
  32. Permit Funds for Distribution of “Morning After” Pill on Public School Grounds
    Table amendment preventing use of federal funds to distribute the “morning after” pill on public school grounds.
    Defeated 41-54: R 5-48; D 35-6, 6/30/00. Biden – Nay
  33. Permit Abortions at U.S. Military Hospitals and Medical Facilities
    Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) amendment, granting military women and dependents of military personnel stationed overseas access to abortion services.
    Adopted 52-40, 6/21/02. Biden – Yea
  34. Senate Resolution Endorsing Roe v. Wade
    Adoption of Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) resolution by the Senate affirming that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided.
    Adopted 52-46: R 9-41; D 42-5; I 1-0, 3/12/03. Biden – No vote.
  35. Retain Mexico City Policy
    Amendment tabling the repeal of the Mexico City Policy, prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds by international organizations that promote or perform abortions.
    Defeated 43-53: R 42-9; D 1-43; I 0-1, 7/9/03. Biden – Nay
  36. Partial Birth Abortion Ban
    Adoption of the conference report of the bill banning “partial birth” abortion, only allowing the procedure if necessary to save a woman’s life, with doctors performing the procedure being fined and sentenced up to two years imprisonment.
    Adopted 64-34: R 47-3; D 17-30; I 0-1, 10/21/03. Biden – Yea
  37. Unborn Victims of Violence Act
    Passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, making it a criminal offense to injure or kill a fetus while committing a violent crime on the level of crime to the woman.
    Passed 61-38, 3/25/04. Biden – Nay
  38. Repeal Mexico City Policy
    Amendment repealing the Mexico City Policy, prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds by international organizations that promote or perform abortions.
    Adopted 52-46: R 8-46; D 43-0; I 1-0, 4/5/05. Biden – Yea
  39. Prohibit Circumvention of State Parental Notification and Consent Laws
    Passage of the bill making it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines to perform an abortion to circumvent parental notification and consent laws.
    Passed 65-34: R 51-4; D 14-29; I 0-1, 7/25/06. Biden – Nay
  40. Repeal Mexico City Policy
    Amendment repealing the Mexico City Policy, prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds by international organizations that promote or perform abortions.
    Passed 53-41: R 7-40; D 46-1, 9/6/07. Biden – Yea
  41. No Funding for Organizations Backing Coercive Abortions and Sterilizations
    Amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding for any organization or program backing coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
    Adopted 48-45: R 44-3; D 4-41, 9/6/08. Biden – No vote.
  42. Unborn Eligibility for SCHIP
    Amendment including the unborn for Eligibility in SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program).
    Rejected 46-52: R 44-4; D 2-47, 3/14/08. Biden – Nay
  43. Increase Funding for Parental Notification Laws on Abortion
    Amendment increasing funding for enforcement for laws requiring parents to be notified in cases of minors seeking abortions, while cutting spending elsewhere.
    Rejected 49-49: R 44-4; D 5-44, 3/13/08. Biden – Nay

    Biden’s record indicates that from 1975 to 1982, he was entirely on the “pro-life” side, even voting to prohibit Medicaid funding for abortions without an exception for rape and incest in 1977, against the views of majorities in both Senate parties. However, in 1983, he voted against the Hatch-Eagleton Amendment, and from that point his record became significantly more favorable to legal and readily accessible abortion. He voted against any efforts at blocking funding for abortions in D.C., any efforts to prevent abortions in military hospitals and medical facilities, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, as well as efforts to prevent minors from getting abortions without parental knowledge. As a senator, Biden continued to favor the Hyde Amendment and voted for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Overall, of these 43 key votes over 33 years, he voted 17 times for the “pro-life” position and 21 times for the “pro-choice” position, with five occasions in which he didn’t vote. His record was, I’d argue, leaning to “pro-choice” in the 1990s, although I can see his votes against abortion restrictions in D.C. as being justified as defending the autonomy of D.C. I have to wonder if he just stuck to the whole Hyde Amendment because he had done so in the past. I believe, however, that Biden still is against “partial birth” abortion being legal.

    References

    ADA Voting Records. Americans for Democratic Action.

    Retrieved from

    https://adaction.org/ada-voting-records/

    Sen. Joseph Biden – Abortion. American Conservative Union.

    Retrieved from

    http://ratings.conservative.org/people/B000444?search=abortion

    Viser, M. (2022, May 3). Abortion has long been complicated for Biden. Now, he leads the fight. The Washington Post.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/03/biden-abortion-rights/

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