2020 Democratic front-runner Joe Biden is trying to recover from the biggest stumble of his presidential campaign so far — a U-turn on…
2020 Democratic front-runner Joe Biden is trying to recover from the biggest stumble of his presidential campaign so far — a U-turn on the abortion-related Hyde Amendment.
The controversy has stunned people close to the former vice president because it took place at warp-speed.
“It all happened really fast,” one Biden ally said.
The central issue is the former vice president’s long-standing — but now abandoned — support for the amendment, which prohibits the use of federal money for abortion services.
One big effect of the Hyde Amendment is a significant limitation on abortions for Medicaid recipients.
Biden’s past position was a matter of public record, but it had not been a prominent issue in this campaign until the publication of an NBC News report early on Wednesday morning.
The report, by Heidi Przybyla, noted not only that Biden had supported Hyde in the past, but that his campaign reaffirmed that he continued to do so.
A firestorm of criticism from advocates of reproductive rights followed — along with some of the sharpest attacks on Biden so far from his Democratic rivals.
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was asked at a Wednesday evening MSNBC town hall event whether Biden was wrong, she replied firmly “yes” before going on to describe how women would be hurt by his position.
By the next day, it was clear Biden’s stance was unsustainable — and that the controversy was taking its toll on the candidate himself.
Sources close to Biden said he was out-of-sorts as he traveled around the Atlanta area on Thursday. The former vice president, normally known for his garrulousness, was disengaged from the people around him, these sources said, a pensive mood supplanting his usual ebullience.
Behind the scenes, even some of his own team grumbled that they were uncomfortable with his position. “It was a real problem, » one close ally said. « I think a lot of people felt like it wasn’t going well.”
By the time he was preparing his remarks for a Democratic Party fundraising event that night, even Biden realized there was no plausible way forward beside switching his previous position.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without the care they need,” he said Thursday night.

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