Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Biden’s Silence on Abortion Rights at a Key Moment Worries Liberals

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Yet as a presidential candidate, Mr. Biden was far less vocal than many of his rivals in the primary, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who once compared an Alabama law effectively banning abortion to “a scene from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’”

“If one were to look at him as a Catholic and his attendance at Mass and the way he looks at life and death and everything else, culturally he’s like 1,000 percent Catholic,” said Jo Renee Formicola, a professor of political science at Seton Hall University who studies the relationship between the Catholic Church and American lawmakers. “He’s very, very Catholic, but when it comes to being political, he’s much more pragmatic than Catholic.”

In office, Mr. Biden has reversed several Trump administration policies, including rolling back restrictions on abortion pills, removing a ban on federally funded medical research that uses fetal tissue from abortions, and reversing limits on funding for U.S. and international groups that provide abortion services or referrals.

Some abortion advocates say those early moves fall short. His joint address to Congress did not mention the threat to abortion rights, referring only in passing to “protecting women’s health.” Ms. Harris, once fairly outspoken on the issue, has made no notable remarks on it since taking office.

“The level of the crisis calls for a stronger level of leadership,” said Kelley Robinson, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We’re looking for them to be explicit champions for sexual and reproductive health care and to use that bully pulpit to make sure that’s a priority that’s expressed from the highest office in the land.”

Many advocates are looking to the president’s fiscal 2022 budget, set to be released on Friday, as a crucial marker of the administration’s position. Reproductive rights organizations are pushing Mr. Biden to make good on his promise to eliminate the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions on federal money.

His administration has also called on Congress to codify abortion rights, which would guarantee reproductive rights nationwide even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe. But it has not proposed specific legislation or unveiled any strategy for pushing such a bill through Congress.

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