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Home U.S. Biden Is Now an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Activists Are Still Wary.

Biden Is Now an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Activists Are Still Wary.

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WASHINGTON — The nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court decision to end the constitutional right to abortion in the United States sparked a generational struggle over Republican efforts to ban abortion in states across the country.

Within the West Wing, however, President Biden has made it clear that even using the word abortion is offensive. I prefer to use the word sparingly, focusing on the broader range of expressions we might call it.

Biden, a Catholic who has used his faith to shape his political identity, is now being asked to lead a battle he has avoided for decades. .

Once an outspoken critic of abortion rights and later a dedicated but quiet defender, Mr. Biden has a history of pausing activists.

“I’m pretty sure he wasn’t necessarily the one most activists wanted to take a seat with when this happened,” he said, referring to the court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s a shame because he has a lot of power and we need him to get out of his comfort zone.”

For 50 years, Mr. Biden has spoken openly about the power of his religion, portraying himself as an advocate for workers and a warrior for social justice. His faith also led him to what he once called a “middle-of-the-road” approach to abortion — basically funding it rather than voting to limit it. I didn’t even vote for it.

Like other Democrats of his generation, Mr. Biden used his protection from Roe v. Wade to avoid pushing legislation that could incorporate the ruling into federal law.

Women’s groups, progressive Democrats and abortion rights activists are now getting louder, but Democrats like Biden have been treating the issue too cautiously for years. sees the decision to overturn the .

They say the Supreme Court’s ruling must be met with an equally tough legal, political and rhetorical response. After the decisive vote to do so, many Democrats believe it’s time to be more active on the issue.

Biden’s advisers say his views on abortion have changed over time and are deeply involved in abortion rights. LaFonza Butler, president of Emily’s List, a group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, said Biden and his team “use every means at their disposal” to fight for this cause. He said he was happy to be there.

But the president’s history on abortion is informed by years of careful political calculation in his religion and the Democratic Party, so it’s difficult to meet the expectations of those within his party seeking new strategies and new energy. I am struggling with

Andrea Miller, director of the National Institute of Reproductive Health, said: “There are certainly limits to the power of the executive branch and limits to what the president can do. But this is now pushing the boundaries. This is the time to pull out all the stops, now is the time to take risks.”

In 2007, Mr. Biden wrote in his memoir, Promises to Keep, that his position on abortion “gained distrust from some women’s groups.” In the book, he says that in his 1973 conversation with a veteran senator, he described his cautious approach as “harsh.”

“Yes, everyone will be angry with me,” I told him, “except me. But I am intellectually and morally content with my position.” Biden wrote in the book.

Now he finds himself defending abortion rights. In June, just days after the court’s ruling, he said when a reporter pointed out that some activists didn’t believe he was the right person to lead the fight against Republican efforts to ban the proceedings. He seemed offended.

“I’m the only president they got,” he said.

Biden has often said that his views on abortion, and the proper role government should play in regulating it, are a result of his convictions. In 1982, when he voted in favor of a Republican-backed constitutional amendment allowing individual states to overturn Roe v. Wade, he said: Background. “

The Catholic Church believes that human life begins at conception, and states that “deliberately killing a living human being in the womb” is always immoral. Church teachings generally permit “indirect” abortion when the fetus dies from other life-saving medical procedures necessary.However, many Catholics disagree with the Church’s official position. Pew Research Center research Last month, 60% of Catholics in the United States said abortions should be legal in all or most cases.

Other Democratic politicians are having a difficult time navigating their positions on the issue. The leaders of the Catholic Church in America have publicly denounced the stance of Catholic politicians such as former Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

As Mr. Biden himself admitted, he is a very religious person who rarely misses an opportunity to attend mass.

Attending the annual Group of 7 meeting with world leaders last year in the seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall, on the southern tip of England, Mr Biden said he was standing behind the Sacred Heart and St Earl church. I sneaked into my seat. Mass will be held with about 50 parishioners. Philip his Reverend Dyson had been given heads-up just minutes before the arrival of the President and First Lady.

“I thought he was a gracious and humble gentleman,” said Father Dyson, recalling a brief conversation after Mass. Some Roman Catholic bishops believe that politicians who support abortion should be denied communion.

“It’s controversial and a matter between him and the Lord,” Father Dyson said.

John Carr, director of social thought and public life for the Initiative on Catholicism at Georgetown University, said abortion was part of Biden’s beliefs and a longstanding conflict between the president and his supporters. said to have been the cause of

“He is a product of Catholic social education and democratic orthodoxy,” said Carr, who has participated in several small-group discussions on religion and politics with Biden. “When the two of you are together, he’s very comfortable with the way he speaks and acts. The places he’s least at home are where they’re at odds.”

Supporters of the president note that since the Supreme Court ruling, Biden has issued two executive orders aimed at protecting the right to travel for medical care and the right to access medicines. Last week, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in Idaho, accusing the state of illegally restricting abortions when the procedure is necessary to stabilize a woman’s health.

Rep. Catherine M. Clarke, Democrat and Vice Speaker of Massachusetts, said: “The problem is the extremist Republicans who say, ‘We don’t respect your faith, your medical history, your circumstances.'”

But for most of his career, Mr. Biden has been met with suspicion by abortion rights advocates because of his history on the issue.

In 1984, Mr. Biden voted in praise of the “Mexico City Policy.” This is the decision of the Reagan administration to block the funding of abortion services abroad. It was an abominable position for today’s Democratic president. Since then, Republican presidents have regularly reinstated the policy, Democrats have repealed it, and Mr. Biden backed it out eight days after taking office.

For years, Mr. Biden has also refused to join other Democrats in opposing the Hyde Amendment, which would bar the federal government from funding abortion. It wasn’t until 2019 that he turned around. Faced with backlash from within his party, he said he “can no longer support an amendment” that would make it more difficult for low-income women to obtain abortions. He submitted the budget without Hyde’s restrictive language, but lawmakers added it.

As vice president, Mr. Biden fought to exempt Catholic institutions from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control obligation. The provision was fiercely opposed by Catholic bishops in the United States, and Mr. Biden tried to argue their case.

He ultimately lost, but the contraceptive order was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Kathleen Sebelius, former health and human services secretary under President Barack Obama, said Biden “want to avoid fighting the church.”

“I think that’s where he started the conversation,” she said. I remembered

“He started in one place and gradually moved to another,” she said.

On other issues, such as support for same-sex marriage, where Democratic positions clash with Catholic teachings, Biden changed positions sooner, Carr said, citing the president’s “passion for LGBTQ issues.” and eloquence,” he pointed out.

But he said abortion always seemed more difficult for the president.

“Biden never asked for power to make abortion more accessible,” Carr said. “It’s not part of him.”

The president admitted as much in a 2007 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I am a practicing Catholic,” he said. “And that’s the biggest dilemma for me in terms of aligning my religious and cultural views with my political responsibilities.”

Two days before the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion rights advocates gathered at the White House with some of Mr.・I met with Vice President Harris. .

After Politico released its draft opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Agency abortion case a few weeks ago, everyone knew what was about to happen. However, some people around the table remained unhappy with the government’s plans to respond to the ruling.

“It was a very frustrating meeting that looked to the White House for guidance,” said Ms. Manson of Catholic for Choice. “Instead, what we got was a summary of all the conversations they had with us all.”

Others at the meeting put it differently, saying the administration spent weeks preparing Dobbs’ sentencing in a series of productive meetings with activists.

But the frustration clearly highlights the strained relationship between Mr. Biden and abortion rights activists, much of it due to Mr. Biden’s past stance that Mr. Biden is fully committed to the fight. He professes that it is hard to believe that he is.

Biden’s aide said Biden has used the word “abortion” several times since the sentencing. and, speech on saturday The White House has used the term in a reiteration of its support for reproductive rights, denouncing Indiana’s new law banning nearly all abortions.

But some veterans of the abortion rights movement say they remain wary of a president who feels uncomfortable using the word. Others are willing to judge Biden by his actions. Say.

Mini Timaraju, president of NARAL’s Pro Choice Americas, said Mr. Biden’s approach has value and appeals to a wider audience. But she said the president should not shy away from using direct and powerful language in moments when people are scared.

“He did it,” she said. “And he’s going to have to get more used to it because this is the modern Democratic Party. As far as I can see, he’s getting there.”

Katie Rogers Contributing to the report from Washington, Maggie Haberman from New York.

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