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Where Joe Biden stands on abortion

In this image, Biden stands outside.
Joe Biden. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden has said he would support a decision by Congress to codify abortion rights if it became necessary, putting him in the minority of presidential candidates who have committed to enacting policy on the issue of reproductive rights.

Yes, but: Biden's voting record as a senator illustrates how drastically his politics have changed on abortion. His campaign confirmed to NBC on Wednesday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.

Biden's record on abortion:

  • In 1973, Biden, a Catholic, said the Supreme Court went "too far" in its Roe v. Wade decision. He now "firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned,” per his press secretary, NBC reports.
  • A year after Roe v. Wade, Biden said a woman shouldn’t have the “sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
  • He voted against a 1977 compromise that allowed Medicaid-funded abortions, with exceptions for victims of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
  • After the rape and incest exemptions passed, Biden voted in 1981 to remove them, per NBC.
  • He also voted multiple times, including in 1983, to prevent federal employees from obtaining abortion services through their health insurance.

Context: Democrats only consistently supported abortion rights after 1988, according to Gallup polling seen in Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel's book, "Before Roe v. Wade."

Go deeper: Where the other 2020 Democrats stand on abortion policy