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Grim writes: "As vice-president, Joe Biden repeatedly sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, working in alliance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to push for a broad exemption that would have left millions of women without coverage."

Vice President Joe Biden answers questions at Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa., on Jan. 13, 2012. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Vice President Joe Biden answers questions at Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa., on Jan. 13, 2012. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Joe Biden Worked to Undermine the Affordable Care Act's Coverage of Contraception

By Ryan Grim, The Intercept

09 June 19


s vice president, Joe Biden repeatedly sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, working in alliance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to push for a broad exemption that would have left millions of women without coverage.

Biden’s battle over contraception is a window into his approach to the politics of reproductive freedom, a function of an electoral worldview that centers working-class Catholic men over the interests of women. The issue has been causing his presidential campaign some discomfort — on Wednesday, Biden’s campaign clarified that he remains a supporter of the so-called Hyde Amendment, a provision that bars federal money from being used to fund reproductive health services. Biden had recently told an activist with the American Civil Liberties Union that he opposed the amendment, and wanted to see it repealed.

On contraception, according to contemporaneous reporting and sources involved with the internal debate, Biden had argued that if the regulations implementing the Affordable Care Act were going to mandate coverage, it would have angered white, male, Catholic voters, and threatened Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. Biden’s main ally in the internal fight over contraception was chief of staff William Daly; both men are Catholic.

Opposing Biden was a faction of mostly women advisers, joined by some men, who argued that Biden had both the policy and the politics wrong. On policy, they noted that if his broad exemption went into effect, upwards of 6 million women who happened to be employed by religious-affiliated organizations would lose contraception coverage. The politics were just as bad, they argued, given that women were increasingly becoming central to the party’s success. To turn on them on the issue of access to birth control — embracing a fringe position not even adopted by most Catholics who aren’t bishops — would put that support at risk.

Biden has long said that he is personally opposed to abortion, but supports the legal right. His support of Roe v. Wade has not always been full-throated.

“When it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother,” Biden said in a June 1974 article. “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

Because Biden’s anti-Roe comments came so long ago — more than four decades — some have argued they are of little value in gauging his current politics. But his battle against contraception, and his unwillingness to join the bulk of the Democratic field and call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, puts him dramatically out of step with today’s party.

Biden is so out of step, in fact, that when he was shown polling data during the contraception fight, he dismissed it as inaccurate. He has a view of the American electorate’s politics on abortion that can’t be influenced by new facts. Jake Tapper, then reporting for ABC News, reported in February 2012:

The two sides couldn’t even agree about what they were debating. In the fall, [Planned Parenthood head Cecile] Richards brought in polling indicating that the American people overwhelmingly supported the birth control benefit in health insurance. She also highlighted statistics showing the overwhelming use of birth control.
The Vice President and others argued that this wouldn’t be seen as an issue of contraception — it would be seen as an issue of religious liberty. They questioned the polling of the rule advocates, arguing that it didn’t explain the issue in full, it ignored the question of what religious groups should have to pay for. And they argued that women voters for whom this was an important issue weren’t likely to vote for Mitt Romney, who has drawn a strong anti-abortion line as a presidential candidate, saying he would end federal funding to Planned Parenthood and supporting a “personhood” amendment that defines life as beginning at the moment of fertilization.

Similarly, Mike Dorning and Margaret Talev reported, “Vice President Joe Biden and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley, also Catholics, warned that the mandate would be seen as a government intrusion on religious institutions. Even moderate Catholic voters in battleground states might be alienated, they warned, according to the people familiar with the discussions.”

It was ultimately public anger that led to Biden and Daley’s defeat on the issue. On January 31, 2012, as the administration was finalizing its policy, it was reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure had cut its funding of Planned Parenthood, in a push led by abortion foe Karen Handel. The fury over the decision stunned the organization, which backtracked and apologized within a week, as Planned Parenthood raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from angered supporters of abortion rights. “We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives,” Komen said in a statement on February 3, 2012.

The White House watched the affair unfold closely, and the blowback punctured the mythology that there is no real public support for abortion rights. It also sent a signal that if the White House backtracked on access to contraception, it could expect a livid response. The exemption that was ultimately granted, on February 10, was a very narrow one, frustrating the bishops.

In his vice presidential debate with Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, Biden attempted to portray it as a broad exemption. “No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital — none has to either 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,” Biden said in the debate.

In a rare public disagreement with Biden, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shot back with a statement, accurately saying that Biden’s claim was “not a fact.” Indeed, many religious-affiliated entities that had hoped to win an exemption, and which had Biden’s support inside the White House, had failed. But with Biden now a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, they may get another shot at denying access to contraception to their employees.

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+9 # chemtex2611 2019-06-09 17:16
So many families came to US for freedom of conscience. First the Catholics and Protestants picked on each other, now the Evangelicals have, amazingly, joined up with their enemies, the Catholics, to force their religious ideas down everyone else's throat, in the name of caring for us. I left the Catholic Church for many reasons, only one reason was that they were trying to force their (fairly recent) birth control ideas on everyone else.

This is all so demeaning of the other world religions, several of which outnumber Catholics and Evangelicals. Why do they so fervently believe that God called them on her pink or purple phone to deliver the only RIGHT way to live? How egotistical can they be?
+9 # Carol R 2019-06-09 18:35
“No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital — none has to either 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,” Biden said in the debate.

The ONLY way I'd vote for Biden would be if he is the Democratic candidate. He isn't a choice for me because I believe women, not religious organizations, have the right to decide what is right for their bodies.

The Catholic church believes that every conjugal act is meant to produce children. It is a mortal sin to use contraceptive devises. This outdated way of thinking is partially why people are leaving the Catholic church. I left years ago.

Catholic priests and even the Vatican knew that priests were abusing children. They worked to cover this abuse up.

Whomever is elected president should not be obligated to support any one religious group. Government and religions are supposed to be separate.
+2 # Inspired Citizen 2019-06-09 18:41
Biden is 2020's Hillary Clinton. Between Bernie or Bust and Biden's repulsive record, there is no way Joe will be able to beat Trump.

Look, the Blue No Matter Who folks will back Bernie. They say so. The Bernie or Bust and the Bernie or Trump voters will not back Biden or any other Democrat except maybe Tulsi Gabbard who the media is working overtime to smear and sandbag.

THEREFORE, ONLY Bernie has a chance to defeat Trump. Like or hate #BernieOrBust, it's a make or break strategy that makes being any candidate but Sanders an impossible bet in the general election.

Bernie or Bust is a pledge.
+1 # IAMMe 2019-06-11 14:23
That is simply not true that all Bernie or Bust people will not back any other Democrat except maybe Tulsi Gabbard. Tulsi Gabbard would be the LAST Democratic candidate I, as a Bernie supporter would vote for. Second choice is Warren and she may be replacing Bernie for me soon.
+9 # Street Level 2019-06-09 18:50
And this is the guy the Dem's are pushing. This is the guy they're going to install at any cost to Stop Bernie. Is anyone still dumb enough to believe that the Dem's give a crap about us?
+7 # draak 2019-06-10 01:23
Biden acts disingenuously. Don't trust him.
+5 # librarian1984 2019-06-10 05:45
Is this a surprise? He obviously holds women in contempt. Just like many other 'friendly' Uncle Joes who turn out to be creeps, he pretends he's a pal while he stabs you in the back .. and cops a feel.

Biden will never beat Trump in the era of MeToo. If he does, the movement is over.

Hillary Clinton proved that relying on Never Trumpers is not good enough. The msm keeps repeating he's the most electable but it isn't true. He's already blown two presidential bids. Do we want him (or Hillary) to go for a third outing with what's at risk?

And what mistakes did Hillary make? She took votes for granted. She went to fundraisers instead of rallies .. just like Uncle Joe is doing. That's why progressives wanted an autopsy. Instead the establishment is trying to run the exact same play against Trump, a play we already know fails.

The Democraps are suicidal and we should not let them take the whole planet with them when they go. Biden and the establishment are on the wrong side of banking, war, health care, climate change, even gender and race issues. Sometimes they say the right things but what have they actually done?

Polls consistently showed Bernie could beat Trump and it's still true.

The people want not just change, but a populist champion. They certainly don't want neoliberal hypocrites, and DINOs and gropers need not apply.

Trump and the GOP want to run against Biden, who's already broadcasting his conservative bona fides.
+5 # Texas Aggie 2019-06-10 08:37
How many reasons do there have to be to show the twits running the DNC that their Favorite Son, the Anointed One, is another Hillary in the wings? If they push him, then 2016 will happen all over again and Perez, Pelosi, Hoyer, Schumer, and all the rest of the neoliberals will sit there wondering what happened.

The lesson of 2018 is don't mess with the base. They are the ones who win elections and if you don't like it, then resign yourselves to losing. As Molly has said, "You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You."
+3 # Jack Ox 2019-06-10 10:40
I fear that the DNC will allow their "moderate" chosen Super-delegates on the second vote- to put in Biden no matter what. If they do this- I will not vote for him- Everyone should let the DNC know that they will also not vote for him before they do this. When they do it- it is too late.
+5 # Citizen Mike 2019-06-10 12:07
More proof here that Biden is yesterday's man, not because of his age but because he has no strong convictions as proven by his wishy-washy switching on the Hyde Amendment, holding his finger up to the wind to see which way it blows. He has no longterm connection to any progressive principles. He is no real friend of women, minorities or workers, but is a career politician and corporate stooge. Sanders is tomorrow's man despite his age because he has shown firm moral and political convictions from way back and is exactly the outsider to reverse all the harm that has been done by conservatives over the last decades. With Warren as his VP, if he makes clear she will share executive authority and operational functions as Cheney did for Bush, the Democrats would have an unbeatable team. They must make clear that they so not intend to overthrow capitalism but to modify it as FDR did and save it from collapse by regulating the cruelty that results from uncontrolled greed an indifference to the public welfare.
+6 # chapdrum 2019-06-10 12:47
Joe is full of it. Nonetheless, it appears that the DNC will force him on us, as he shares its loyalty to Wall St.
Impressive campaign platform: Trump bad, me good.
0 # DongiC 2019-06-13 04:14
It appears that Biden's religion is affecting his political philosophy. This will probably be fatal to his chances of winning the presidency for his stand on the Hyde amendment and contraception, in general, will antagonize millions of voters. The ultimate consequences of the DNC's advocacy of Biden may be the end of all humanity if Trump wins. I think their choice of candidates is one of the greatest of all time.

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