As election day in the US draws near, people across the nation are weighing their choices, trying to make that final decision of who they are going to support. Here in Utah, many have already begun to cast their mail-in votes.
It is never an easy decision, and as always voters are asking themselves, where do the candidates stand on key issues, and what are they likely to do if elected?
Thankfully, when it comes to abortion, both primary candidates and their vice-presidential picks have a history that we can draw from and in most cases clear statements of their stances on the issues to help establish what they are likely to do, should they be elected.
Biden, historically, was not always the ardent pro-choice advocate that he portrays himself as now. Indeed, at the beginning of his political career, Biden was seen by many as pro-life ally, someone that could be counted on to support at the very least moderate limitations on abortion.
From 1973 to 2003, Biden voted often in support of pro-life legislation, supporting the Hyde Amendment measures that restricted Medicaid funding, voted inconsistently for constitutional amendments allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade, and also backed bans on partial-birth abortions six times from 1995 to 2003. He was a self-proclaimed pro-life democrat, (1)(2)
Between 2003 and 2007 however, Biden’s stances underwent a radical shift, leading him to declaring strong support for Roe v. Wade and criticizing the Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion that he had supported, saying that he still did not support partial-birth abortion but calling the Court’s decision to uphold the ban “paternalistic” and built on dishonest rationales. Biden also worked to expand research into new embryonic stem cell lines, requiring that research utilizing embryos be conducted and supported by the government.(3)
In 2020, several pro-abortion groups criticized Biden for his support of the Hyde Amendment, causing him to reverse his position and come out in support of federal taxpayer funding of abortion. Subsequently, most leading pro-choice groups have endorsed him, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, with planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson stating that “This is literally a life and death election.”(4)(5)(6)
Unlike Biden’s, Harris’s track record on the issue of abortion has been very consistent. She has earned herself a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, voting against every piece of pro-life legislation she has had the opportunity to oppose and supporting all pro-choice legislation.(7)
Not only has Harris consistently maintained that abortion should be legal at all points during pregnancy, but she has even opposed measures to provide protections for abortion survivors who have already been born. During her time as senator, she sponsored legislation that could have invalidated any and all state-level protections for unborn children up until birth, made it impossible for states to enact or enforce informed-consent laws and waiting-period requirements, and voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act—twice, denying medical care to children who survive failed abortions.(8)
She has furthermore supported federal funding for abortion, something that has put her at odds with Biden. Harris stated that it was wholly unacceptable that Biden ever supported the Hyde Amendment, often claiming that the former vice president was not "pro-choice" enough for the modern Democratic party. In 2019, she brutally attacked him for his decision to “withhold resources to poor women to have access to reproductive healthcare.”(9)
In addition to taking extensive pro-choice legislative action as a senator, Harris used her position as attorney general to fight pro-life efforts. In 2016, she ordered the raid of the home of pro-life advocate David Daleiden, an undercover investigator who exposed Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts. She confiscated evidence and unreleased footage, and even attempted to take his phone as he was talking with his attorney. While many of the charges against Daleiden have since been dropped, he is still involved in ongoing legal disputes in regards to the undercover Planned Parenthood videos that Harris initiated, even while received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign finance contributions from Planned Parenthood affiliated groups.(10)(11)
Before running for president in 2016, Trump had a mixed history in regard to abortion, often mentioning how much he disliked it but still generally referring to himself as pro-choice. Indeed, in a 1999 interview about partial-birth abortion, Trump even seemed to condone the procedure, stating that he was strongly for choice.
“I hate the concept of abortion, I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But I still believe in choice. Again, it might be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country, and I was raised in New York, grew up and worked and everything else in New York City, but I am strongly for choice, and yet I hate the concept of abortion.”(12)
Comments like these made Trump an unlikely ally for pro-life advocates, and indeed he likely would have made for a very pro-choice politician at the time. Sometime after this, however, Trump’s position on abortion began to change. Around a year after the interview he gave in 1999, Trump stated that he had spoken with doctors and learned more about partial birth abortion, subsequently changing his mind and coming out in opposition to it:
“I support a woman's right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures. When Tim Russert asked me on Meet the Press if I would ban partial-birth abortion, my pro-choice instincts led me to say no. After the show, I consulted two doctors I respect and, upon learning more about this procedure, I have concluded that I would support a ban.”(13)
Trump’s stance on the issues continued to change over time, with him eventually declaring that he had changed his view and was now strongly pro-life in 2011, citing among other reasons a friend’s personal experience with abortion and pregnancy as having changed his heart.(14)
Over the course of the 2016 election, Trump likewise promised the American public that he would be a strong defender of life and an opponent of abortion. Many conservatives and pro-life leaders were naturally concerned about his past support of abortion, but Trump went to great lengths to assure pro-life leaders that he was indeed sincere, and would do his best as president to promote pro-life legislation.(15)
Immediately after becoming president, Trump began taking action on the issue of abortion, following through on the commitments he had made during the campaign. Just three days after taking office, Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, withdrawing US funding from overseas abortions and involuntary sterilization programs. Trump also further expanded the policy to encompass all global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies, ultimately affecting nearly $9 billion dollars in existing foreign aid, 15,000 times as much as influenced by previous versions of the Mexico City Policy.(16)(17)(18)
Likewise, Trump took immediate action to halt funding of the UN Population fund, which had links to forced abortion programs such as China's one-child policy. Over $32.5 million dollars were cut from the U.N. fund, possibly more, with money being shifted to other aid programs in the U.S. Agency for International Development.(19)
Over the course of the next few years Trump took an extremely active role in promoting pro-life policy in a myriad of ways, too numerous to recount but too important to ignore. From early actions such as using the Congressional Review Act to overturn mandates requiring that states fund abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to more recent actions such as the Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children, requiring that federally funded facilities provide life-saving medical care for infants who survive abortions, he has throughout his entire presidency promoted pro-life legislation.(20)(21)(22)
Moreover, the Trump administration itself has taken an active role in opposing abortion at every opportunity, particularly the Department of Health and Human Services. After taking office, Trump filled many core posts in the federal government with notable pro-life advocates, including Scott Lloyd, Charmaine Yoest, Shannon Royce, Teresa Manning, and Bethany Kozma, who, under Trump, have made inordinate progress in fighting against abortion on numerous fronts. This has likewise been mirrored by his appointment of countless pro-life judges, including two appointments to the Supreme Court which could play an instrumental role in ultimately overturning Roe v. Wade.(23)(24)
Pence, unlike Trump, has had a long history of consistently promoting pro-life policy at all times, even when other Republicans have avoided the issue for political reasons. He has always made it a cornerstone of his political positions, ultimately even earning him the title of “one-man crusader” from many groups on both the right and the left.
Pence was one of the first and most active politicians to ever take on the federal funding of abortion, introducing legislation that would prevent any entity that provides abortion from receiving funds through Title X and working to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.(24)
Likewise, Pence was one of the original sponsors of personhood legislation, spearheading efforts to implement equal protection for all born and unborn persons. At various times as representative he fought for bills and acts that would have provided equal protection under 14th Amendment, defining legal personhood as beginning at the “moment of fertilization.” (25)
As governor of Indiana, Pence also signed eight separate anti-abortion bills into law in less than four years, including a bill to ban abortion in cases of genetic abnormality, ultimately helping turn Indiana into one of the most pro-life states in the United States.(26)
Despite having both once held opposite positions on abortion, Trump has proven himself to be one of the most pro-life presidents in U.S. history, and Biden has likewise become a strongly pro-choice politician. In Pence and Harris, Trump and Biden have selected some of the strongest champions of the pro-life and pro-choice causes respectively to be vice president.
As the two tickets go head-to-head in this election, it has never been so clear that abortion is truly the most important issue on the ballot and in the American heart.
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