Biden 2006: I don't view abortion as a choice or a right but as a tragedy

Via CNN’s KFile, I can’t tell you how excited I am to watch progressives process this old clip, which has been publicly available since before they twice voted en masse for Biden as vice president, with their usual equanimity.

Sneak preview: Boing Boing’s header for its post about the video is stills of Biden with a thumbs-down emoji plus a bunch of little coat-hangers.

He utters three heresies here by the standards of the left in 2019 in the course of reiterating that he supports a woman’s right to have an abortion under Roe. The first heresy is that he opposes taxpayer funding for the procedure. But we already knew that: That’s the Hyde Amendment, which he finally flipped on only this year. The second heresy is that he opposes partial-birth abortion. But that’s a heresy they might let him slide on, as that’s unfavorable political terrain for a left-wing defense of the right to choose during a national campaign.

The third heresy? Although he believes women should be free to abort if they like, he thinks it’d be good if the country gave them reasons, economic and otherwise, not to. For this perfectly sane view, that abortion is a “tragedy” to be avoided if possible rather than some empowering ritual sacrifice, he’ll likely be rhetorically disemboweled.

“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.”

Watch the clip and you’ll see that when he talks about limiting the number of abortions, he’s talking about incentives, not prohibitions. He wants to make America more “hospitable” for women who’d prefer to carry their children to term, he says, noting that abortions went down during the Clinton years as the economy grew. Easing some of the financial pressure on a woman who’s pregnant will make her feel less compelled to abort in the name of economic security. That is, Biden’s challenging the left’s perpetual incantations about “choice” as the logic of their position. If you really care about the “right to choose,” wouldn’t you want a woman who’d prefer to carry to term if she could afford it to be able to exercise that choice? Is choice the ultimate good in this debate, even if it means fewer abortions, or is abortion itself the ultimate good?

That was an easier question in 2006 than it is in 2019.

But it can and will be turned around on him. If he was so concerned about economic strain on pregnant women impacting their freedom of choice, he might be asked, why did he oppose the Hyde Amendment at the time? It’s lower-income women who most benefit from taxpayer funding for abortion. What if a woman had to choose abortion because her household finances were precarious and she couldn’t afford to miss time at work due to pregnancy, but also didn’t have the money needed to pay for an abortion? Wouldn’t a Roe supporter want to make America’s legal framework more “hospitable” to that woman, too? Hope he’s ready for that question at the debates.