Great Britain

On his first day in office, Biden made a massive unforced error on women’s rights

But a few hours later, the reality of politics revealed itself. In the first of what is promised to be many White House press briefings, newly-appointed Press Secretary Jen Psaki fielded a question from an evangelical news site, EWTN. The reporter asked what President Biden plans to do with the Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule, which blocks federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion, abortion counseling, or abortion referrals) and the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds from paying for abortion care in the United States.

“Well, I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City Policy in the coming days,“ Psaki said. “But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that [Biden] is a devout Catholic, and somebody who attends church regularly.”

Yet on Day One, Biden and his administration chose to reinforce the illusion of a dispute that simply does not exist. Abortion is a common outcome of reproduction. Abortion care is a common and safe medical procedure.

To assert his now-presidential support for access to abortion care will not draw some alienating line in the proverbial sand. Instead, it will reaffirm what the majority of Americans already know and believe: it’s a way to protect a vital type of health care many Americans can and do need.

In 2012, as vice president, Biden claimed the “government doesn’t have a right to tell other people that women, they can’t control their body.” Then, as a presidential candidate, Biden broke from the field Democratic presidential hopefuls and reaffirmed his support of the Hyde amendment, which disproportionately harms Black, Latinx, and poor people from receiving the abortion care they need and want. It was only after intense backlash that Biden reversed his position, denouncing Hyde and saying “If I believe healthcare is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”

Sure, a politician’s legislative perspective shifting over the span of a decades-long career is understandable. Hell, a politician flip-flopping in the span of a day, maybe two, is par for the partisan course. But Biden’s wavering support of unfettered abortion access is troubling at face value, especially when one considers the overarching goal of the Biden/Harris administration.

The gift he gives a fractured GOP in the name of bipartisanship is a detriment to the very people who gave Biden the presidency: Black women. If building the country in a unified way is of utmost importance, it is not beyond the pale for Biden to view the one in four women (as well as the trans and non-binary people) who have abortions as collatoral damage.

A Democratic president does not ensure the protection and expansion of abortion care. From 2010 to 2016, while Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden was vice president, more than 288 anti-aboriton laws were enacted. Yes, Trump’s departure from the White House was a sigh of relief to all of those who seek abortion services — and for those who provide it, protect it, and fund it — but Joe middle-of-the-road Biden is a far cry from the progressive leader many Democrats had hoped to elect. That is why we must hold the newly-appointed Biden administration to their word, regardless of how low the Trump administration left the bar. We must push them to be better than any previous administration. We must stay engaged, stay vigilant, and stay angry. And, apparently, we must start now.

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