I suppose the headline for this entry might need to become a regular Power Line series between now and election day. It was as predictable as the sunrise that Biden’s long-time support of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for elective abortion, would crumple under pressure from the Abortion Absolutists who now control Democratic Party dogma. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he crumpled so quickly. Get used to this. But I suppose that when you’re as wrinkled up as Joe is now, it is less noticeable when he crumples up under political pressure.
David Harsanyi has a terrific Twitter compilation of Biden’s long-record of support not only for the Hyde Amendment, but for restricting partial-birth abortion, and once upon a time even the Mexico City policy (first adopted by the Reagan Administration in 1984) that bans U.S. foreign aid for abortion overseas. I especially like this old quote from Slow Joe: “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.”
The standard line of the media is that it is Republicans who have become extreme on abortion. It might be worth reviewing some history to show just how radicalized in abortion absolutism Democrats have become. Remember George McGovern, the candidate of “acid, amnesty, and abortion”? Actually the last item in the list is incorrect. McGovern entered the 1972 campaign season with the position that abortion was a matter that should be left to state legislatures (which is the default Republican position today), and he successfully resisted attempts at including a pro-abortion plank in the Democratic platform in 1972. He openly rejected abortion-on-demand. There must be regulating legislation, McGovern thought: “You can’t just let anybody walk in and request an abortion.”
His chief rivals for the nomination that year, Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey, also both opposed abortion. “I am not for it,” said Humphrey. “It compromises the sanctity of life,” said Muskie. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had an even tougher opinion at that time, describing abortion “as too nice a word for something cold, like murder.”
Let us recall, also, that both of McGovern’s running mates (Eagleton and Shriver) were strong pro-life Roman Catholics. Think that could happen today? (McGovern also considered as a running mate Boston Mayor Kevin White, who was also pro-life.)
That was before Roe v. Wade. What about after? In 1976, when Jimmy Carter met with Catholic clergy he emphasized that he opposed abortion as a matter of personal conviction, and though he didn’t support a constitutional amendment banning abortion, he said he supported a “national statute” regulating abortion, whatever that meant. “I would prefer a stricter ruling” was his comment when asked about Roe v. Wade.
You can pretty much scratch any of those old liberal icons from the Democratic honor roll today.
And remember the media line—it is Republicans who have become extreme on abortion. Rinse and repeat daily. And watch Joe Biden lose Wisconsin and Pennsylvania next year.