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Biden's stance on Hyde Amendment draws critcism from abortion rights groups

Biden on abortion and the Hyde Amendment

Abortion rights have been a central topic in the Democratic presidential primary race recently, with several states passing bills which restrict or outright ban abortion in recent months. Most candidates have affirmed their support for a woman's right to get an abortion, and publicly condemned these laws.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner in the race, wrote on Twitter in May that the laws passed in states like Alabama and Georgia were unconstitutional, and "Roe v Wade is settled law and should not be overturned. This choice should remain between a woman and her doctor."

However, Biden supports the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits use of federal funding for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman. This stance has made him a target for abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and EMILY's List, and may deter progressive primary voters already wary of Biden's centrist positions.

Biden's continued support for the Hyde Amendment was first reported by NBC News, which confirmed his stance with the campaign. His position seemingly contradicted an answer he had given to a voter last month, according to an ACLU video posted on Twitter that appeared to show Biden committing to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Biden's campaign clarified to NBC News that the candidate misheard the question.

After a campaign stop in New Hampshire Wednesday, Biden declined to answer a question on the Hyde Amendment by CBS News.

Biden, a staunch Catholic, is anti-abortion in his personal life, but supports Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. In his 2007 memoir "Promises to Keep," Biden said that he would continue to protect Roe, and that "I refuse to impose my religious beliefs on other people."

Women's rights groups quickly expressed their dissatisfaction with his position on the Hyde Amendment.

"To support the Hyde Amendment is to block people -- particularly women of color and women with low incomes -- from accessing safe, legal abortion," the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said of Biden's support for the amendment. "As abortion access is being restricted and pushed out of reach in states around the country, it is unacceptable for a candidate to support policies that further restrict abortion." The group went on to say that it hopes Biden speaks with people affected by the policy and "reevaluates his position."

EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement, "At a time when reproductive rights are under consistent attack, it's unacceptable that a major Democratic nominee supports the Hyde Amendment," 

"Differentiating himself from the field this way will not earn Joe Biden any political points and will bring harm to women who are already most vulnerable," Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights organization Naral Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. 

Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, four of the women running for president, have introduced legislation to repeal the Hyde Amendment. A few Democratic candidates obliquely pushed back against Biden without mentioning him directly.

"There is #NoMiddleGround on women's rights. Abortion is a constitutional right. Under my Medicare for All plan, we will repeal the Hyde Amendment," Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter. Beto O'Rourke re-posted a video where he called on repealing the Hyde Amendment, and Jay Inslee talked about his opposition to the Hyde Amendment when it was approved again in 1993.

As Biden continues to enjoy a steady lead in the polls, it's a stance he's likely to be elaborating upon and defending in the primary debates later this month.

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