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Biden calls for enshrining Roe v. Wade in federal law

“What we should be doing is investing a great deal more money in the entirety of how we deal with women’s health care and making it available across the spectrum,” Former Vice President Joe Biden said.
| Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday that he would work to enshrine into federal law the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision upholding abortion rights, as the Democratic presidential frontrunner seeks to mollify critics of his record on reproductive issues.

Biden, speaking at a Planned Parenthood forum two weeks after reversing his opposition to federal funding for most abortions — an early flashpoint in the 2020 presidential campaign — said he would support codifying Roe as defined by a later decision that affirmed the landmark case’s central principles.

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“It should be the law,” Biden said.

Democratic contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, among others, have called for similar legislation amid concerns, in the wake of state laws that drastically limited abortions, that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe.

Biden, however, has previously supported some restrictions on abortions or abortion funding, and his campaign recently declined to answer questions about what limitations, if any, he still supports.

When the former vice president appeared on stage Saturday, a moderator said to him, “There are some voters who may have concerns about your overall support for sexual and reproductive health, just given your mixed record.”

Biden responded: “First of all, I’m not sure about the ‘mixed record’ part,” calling his voting record “100 percent” before his mic momentarily cut out.

When it came back on, Biden called for expanding federal health care funding and said he would work to “eliminate all of the changes that this president made” to federal family planning programs. He said that while the federal government cannot dictate how many clinics a state must make available to women, “what we have to do is we have to provide the access to increase the funding, which we fought to do, for Planned Parenthood … and other organizations.”

“What we should be doing is investing a great deal more money in the entirety of how we deal with women’s health care and making it available across the spectrum,” he said.

Many progressive activists remain skeptical of Biden’s record on abortion rights. But he received rounds of applause during the Planned Parenthood forum — and after an emotional exchange with an audience member at its conclusion.

While Biden listened, with a veteran and a sexual assault survivor told him that without access to abortion, “I wouldn’t have graduated college. I would still be on Medicaid … I wouldn’t have sought treatment for my PTSD, my anxiety and my depression. And I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.”

Across America, she said, are women whose “pain is real, and their experiences are real, and it would break your heart.”

Biden, after thanking the woman for her “incredible courage,” invoked his work on the Violence Against Women Act while in the Senate and said, “The idea that we still have in the military a failure to deal with sexual assault and rape is outrageous.”

Then he asked if she had time to speak with him after the event.

“I think I can directly help your personal situation as well,” Biden said, though he did not explain how.

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