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Joe Biden on Abortion

Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


I accept church rule personally, but not in public life

Q: What role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion?

RYAN: I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith.

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am. And I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to abortion, I accept my church's position that life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and--I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court--I'm not going to interfere with that.

Source: 2012 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

No church needs to provide contraception under ObamaCare

RYAN: Look at what they're doing through "Obamacare" with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals. Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties.

BIDEN: No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including any hospital--none has to refer contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

RYAN: If they agree with you, then why would they keep suing you? It's a distinction without a difference.

Source: 2013 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Romney will appoint pro-life Justice; Obama will not

Q: If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RYAN: We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.

BIDEN: The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That's how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself: With Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for Mr. Romney, who do you think he's likely to appoint? Do you think he's likely to appoint someone far right, that would outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen. I guarantee you that will not happen [with Obama]. We picked people who are open-minded. They've been good justices.

RYAN: Was there a litmus test on them?

BIDEN: There was no litmus test. We picked people who had an open mind, did not come with an agenda.

Source: 2015 Vice Presidential debate , Oct 11, 2012

Constitution does offer an inherent right to privacy

Q: Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

A: I think the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment offers a right to privacy. Now that’s one of the big debates that I have with my conservative scholar friends, that they say, you know, unless a right is enumerated--unless it’s actually uses the word “privacy” in the Constitution--then no such “constitutional right” exists. Well, I think people have an inherent right.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric , Oct 1, 2008

Allow women to choose, but no federal funding

I remember vividly the first time, in 1973, I had to go to the floor to vote on abortion. A fellow Senator asked how I would vote. “My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have a right to impose my few on the rest of society. I’ve thought a lot about it, and my position probably doesn’t please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely. I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.“

I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice.

Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.104-105 , Jul 31, 2007

No public funding for abortion; it imposes a view

Q: Are you still opposed to public funding for abortion?

A: I still am opposed to public funding for abortion. It goes to the question of whether or not you’re going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Apr 29, 2007

Supports partial-birth abortion ban, but not undoing Roe

Q: You supported the ban on partial-birth abortions or late-term abortions.

A: I did and I do.

And the Supreme Court came and basically upheld that ban, and you criticized the Supreme Court.

Q: They upheld the ban, and then they engaged in what we lawyers call dicta that is frightening. You had an intellectually dishonest rationale for an honest justification for upholding the ban. I know this is going to sound arcane--they blurred the distinction between the government’s role in being involved in the first day and the ninth month. They became paternalistic, talking about the court could consider the impact on the mother and keeping her from making a mistake. This is all code for saying, “Here we come to undo Roe v. Wade.” What they did is not so much the decision, the actual outcome of the decision, it’s what attended the decision that portends for a real hard move on the court to undo the right of privacy. That’s what I’m criticizing about the court’s decision.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Apr 29, 2007

Accepts Catholic church view that life begins at conception

Q: You have changed your position on abortion. When you came to the Senate, you believed that Roe v. Wade was not correctly decided and that you also believed the right of abortion was not secured by the Constitution. Why did you change your mind?

A: Well, I was 29 years old when I came to the US Senate, and I have learned a lot. Look, I’m a practicing Catholic, and it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility.

Q: Do you believe that life begins at conception?

A: I am prepared to accept my church’s view. I think it’s a tough one. I have to accept that on faith. That’s why the late-term abortion ban, where there’s clearly viability.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Apr 29, 2007

Nominees should agree on constitutional right to privacy

Q: As president would you have a specific litmus test question on Roe v. Wade that you would ask of your nominees for the high court?

A: I strongly support Roe v. Wade. I wouldn’t have a specific question but I would make sure that the people I sent to be nominated for the Supreme Court shared my values; and understood that there is a right to privacy in the United States Constitution. That’s why I led the fight to defeat Bork, Roberts Alito, and Thomas.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007


Joe Biden on Voting Record

Roe v. Wade is as close to a consensus as we can get

Q: Why do you think Roe v. Wade was a good decision?

A: Because it’s as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours. What does it say? It says in the first three months that decision should be left to the woman. And the second three months, where Roe v. Wade says, well then the state, the government has a role, along with the women’s health, they have a right to have some impact on that. And the third three months they say the weight of the government’s input is on the fetus being carried.

And so that’s sort of reflected as close as anybody is ever going to get in this heterogeneous, this multicultural society of religious people as to some sort of, not consensus, but as close it gets.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric , Oct 1, 2008

Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To require that legislation to reauthorize SCHIP include provisions codifying the unborn child regulation. Amends the definition of the term "targeted low-income child" to provide that such term includes the period from conception to birth, for eligibility for child health assistance.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ALLARD: This amendment will codify the current unborn child rule by amending the SCHIP reauthorization reserve fund. This amendment will clarify in statute that the term "child" includes the period from conception to birth. This is a pro-life vote.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. FEINSTEIN: We already clarified SCHIP law that a pregnant woman's coverage under SCHIP law is optional. We made it obligatory so every pregnant woman has the advantage of medical insurance. This amendment undoes that. It takes it away from the woman and gives it to the fetus. Now, if a pregnant woman is in an accident, loses the child, she does not get coverage, the child gets coverage. We already solved the problem. If you cover the pregnant woman, you cover her fetus. What Senator Allard does is remove the coverage from the pregnant woman and cover the fetus.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 46-52

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4233 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S081 on Mar 14, 2008

Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To increase funding for the vigorous enforcement of a prohibition against taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions consistent with the Child Custody Protection Act.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ENSIGN: This amendment enables enforcing the Child Custody Protection Act, which passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion by a vote of 65 to 34. Too many times we enact laws, and we do not fund them. This is going to set up funding so the law that says we are going to protect young children from being taken across State lines to have a surgical abortion--we are going to make sure those people are protected. OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. BOXER: We already voted for $50 million to enhance the enforcement of child protective laws. If Sen. Ensign's bill becomes law, then that money is already there to be used for such a program. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 49-49 (1/2 required, or 50 votes; Sen. Byrd & Sen. McCain absent)

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4335 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S071 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines.

Allows federal funding for research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells, regardless of the date on which the stem cells were derived from a human embryo, provided such embryos:
  1. have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics;
  2. were created for the purposes of fertility treatment;
  3. were in excess of the needs of the individuals seeking such treatment and would otherwise be discarded; and
  4. were donated by such individuals with written informed consent and without any financial or other inducements.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Since 2 years ago, the last Stem Cell bill, public support has surged for stem cells. Research is proceeding unfettered and, in some cases, without ethical standards in other countries. And even when these countries have ethical standards, our failures are allowing them to gain the scientific edge over the US. Some suggest that it is Congress' role to tell researchers what kinds of cells to use. I suggest we are not the arbiters of research. Instead, we should foster all of these methods, and we should adequately fund and have ethical oversight over all ethical stem cell research.

Opponents support voting NO because:

A good deal has changed in the world of science. Amniotic fluid stem cells are now available to open a broad new area of research. I think the American people would welcome us having a hearing to understand more about this promising new area of science. As it stands today, we will simply have to debate the bill on the merits of information that is well over 2 years old, and I think that is unfortunate.

The recent findings of the pluripotent epithelial cells demonstrates how quickly the world has changed. Wouldn't it be nice to have the researcher before our committee and be able to ask those questions so we may make the best possible judgment for the American people?
Status: Vetoed by Pres. Bush Bill passed, 63-34

Reference: Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act; Bill S.5 & H.R.3 ; vote number 2007-127 on Apr 11, 2007

Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.

This bill prohibits taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions. Makes an exception for an abortion necessary to save the life of the minor. Authorizes any parent to sue unless such parent committed an act of incest with the minor. Imposes a fine and/or prison term of up to one year on a physician who performs an abortion on an out-of-state minor in violation of parental notification requirements in their home state.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This bill deals with how young girls are being secretly taken across State lines for the purpose of abortion, without the consent of their parents or even the knowledge of their parents, in violation of the laws of the State in which they live. 45 states have enacted some sort of parental consent laws or parental notification law. By simply secreting a child across State lines, one can frustrate the State legislature's rules. It is subverting and defeating valid, constitutionally approved rights parents have.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Some States have parental consent laws, some don't. In my particular State, it has been voted down because my people feel that if you ask them, "Do they want their kids to come to their parents?", absolutely. But if you ask them, "Should you force them to do so, even in circumstances where there could be trouble that comes from that?", they say no.

This bill emanates from a desire that our children come to us when we have family matters, when our children are in trouble, that they not be fearful, that they not be afraid that they disappoint us, that they be open with us and loving toward us, and we toward them. This is what we want to have happen. The question is: Can Big Brother Federal Government force this on our families? That is where we will differ.

Reference: Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act; Bill S.403 ; vote number 2006-216 on Jul 25, 2006

Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives.

Vote to adopt an amendment to the Senate's 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that allocates $100 million for the prevention of unintended pregnancies. A YES vote would expand access to preventive health care services that reduce unintended pregnancy (including teen pregnancy), reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women's health care. A YES vote would:
Reference: Appropriation to expand access to preventive health care services; Bill S.Amdt. 244 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-75 on Mar 17, 2005

Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime.

Bill would make it a criminal offense to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of a violent crime. The measure would set criminal penalties, the same as those that would apply if harm or death happened to the pregnant woman, for those who harm a fetus. It is not required that the individual have prior knowledge of the pregnancy or intent to harm the fetus. This bill prohibits the death penalty from being imposed for such an offense. The bill states that its provisions should not be interpreted to apply a woman's actions with respect to her pregnancy.
Reference: Unborn Victims of Violence Act; Bill S.1019/HR.1997 ; vote number 2004-63 on Mar 25, 2004

Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions.

Vote on a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities.
Reference: Bill S 2549 ; vote number 2000-134 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions.

This legislation, if enacted, would ban the abortion procedure in which the physician partially delivers the fetus before completing the abortion. [A NO vote supports abortion rights].
Status: Bill Passed Y)63; N)34; NV)3
Reference: Partial Birth Abortion Ban; Bill S. 1692 ; vote number 1999-340 on Oct 21, 1999

Voted NO on banning human cloning.

This cloture motion was in order to end debate and move to consideration of legislation banning human cloning. [A YES vote opposes human cloning].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)42; N)54; NV)4
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on motion to proceed to S. 1601; Bill S. 1601 ; vote number 1998-10 on Feb 11, 1998

Rated 36% by NARAL, indicating a mixed voting record on abortion.

Biden scores 36% by NARAL on pro-choice voting record

For over thirty years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been the political arm of the pro-choice movement and a strong advocate of reproductive freedom and choice. NARAL Pro-Choice America's mission is to protect and preserve the right to choose while promoting policies and programs that improve women's health and make abortion less necessary. NARAL Pro-Choice America works to educate Americans and officeholders about reproductive rights and health issues and elect pro-choice candidates at all levels of government. The NARAL ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: NARAL website 03n-NARAL on Dec 31, 2003

Expand embryonic stem cell research.

Biden signed a letter from 58 Senators to the President

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to expand the current federal policy concerning embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be used to treat and better understand deadly and disabling diseases and conditions that affect more than 100 million Americans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and many others.

We appreciate your words of support for the enormous potential of this research, and we know that you intended your policy to help promote this research to its fullest. As you know, the Administration's policy limits federal funding only to embryonic stem cells that were derived by August 9, 2001.

However, scientists have told us that since the policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned that the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research. We therefore feel it is essential to relax the restrictions in the current policy for this research to be fully explored.

Among the difficult challenges with the current policy are the following:

We would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures for which we are all hoping.
Source: Letter from 58 Senators to the President 04-SEN8 on Jun 4, 2004

Rated 0% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-choice stance.

Biden scores 0% by the NRLC on abortion issues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2006 NRLC scores as follows:

About the NRLC (from their website, www.nrlc.org):

The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense. The National Right to Life Committee was founded in 1973 in response to the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, legalizing the practice of human abortion in all 50 states, throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.

The NRLC has been instrumental in achieving a number of legislative reforms at the national level, including a ban on non-therapeutic experimentation of unborn and newborn babies, a federal conscience clause guaranteeing medical personnel the right to refuse to participate in abortion procedures, and various amendments to appropriations bills which prohibit (or limit) the use of federal funds to subsidize or promote abortions in the United States and overseas.

In addition to maintaining a lobbying presence at the federal level, NRLC serves as a clearinghouse of information for its state affiliates and local chapters, its individual members, the press, and the public.

Source: NRLC website 06n-NRLC on Dec 31, 2006

Ensure access to and funding for contraception.

Biden co-sponsored ensuring access to and funding for contraception

A bill to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women's health care. The Congress finds as follows:

  1. Healthy People 2010 sets forth a reduction of unintended pregnancies as an important health objective to achieve over the first decade of the new century.
  2. Although the CDC included family planning in its published list of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century, the US still has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies among industrialized nations.
  3. Each year, 3,000,000 pregnancies, nearly half of all pregnancies, in the US are unintended, and nearly half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion.
  4. In 2004, 34,400,000 women, half of all women of reproductive age, were in need of contraceptive services, and nearly half of those were in need of public support for such care.
  5. The US has the highest rate of infection with sexually transmitted diseases of any industrialized country. 19 million cases impose a tremendous economic burden, as high as $14 billion per year.
  6. Increasing access to family planning services will improve women's health and reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy, abortion, and infection with sexually transmitted diseases. Contraceptive use saves public health dollars. For every dollar spent to increase funding for family planning programs, $3.80 is saved.
  7. Contraception is basic health care that improves the health of women and children by enabling women to plan and space births.
  8. Women experiencing unintended pregnancy are at greater risk for physical abuse and women having closely spaced births are at greater risk of maternal death.
  9. A child born from an unintended pregnancy is at greater risk of low birth weight, dying in the first year of life, being abused, and not receiving sufficient resources for healthy development.
Source: Prevention First Act (S.21/H.R.819) 2007-HR819 on Feb 5, 2007

Other candidates on Abortion: Joe Biden on other issues:
Incumbents:
Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
GOP Candidates:
Gov.Mitt Romney(MA)
Rep.Paul Ryan(WI)
Third Party Candidates:
Mayor Rocky Anderson(J)
Roseanne Barr(PF)
Rep.Virgil Goode(C)
Gov.Gary Johnson(L)
Jill Stein(G)

GOP Withdrawals:
Rep.Michele Bachmann(MN)
Herman Cain(GA)
Rep.Newt Gingrich(GA)
Gov.Jon Huntsman(UT)
Gov.Sarah Palin(AK)
Rep.Ron Paul(TX)
Gov.Tim Pawlenty(MN)
Gov.Rick Perry(TX)
Gov.Buddy Roemer(LA)
Sen.Rick Santorum(PA)
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Page last updated: Oct 22, 2012