(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden committed on Sunday night to naming a woman as his vice presidential running mate if he becomes his party’s nominee, and his rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, said he “in all likelihood” would do so, too – in his case, “a progressive woman.”
The announcement came as both candidates responded to a question during the CNN/Univision debate about policies relating to women.
The former vice president also reaffirmed that, if as president he gets to appoint a Supreme Court justice, he will appoint the first black woman. And he confirmed that he no longer opposes the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is endangered.
“If I’m elected president my cabinet, my administration, will look like the country,” Biden said. “And I commit that I will in fact appoint a – I’d pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president.”
Asked whether he would do so, too, Sanders said, “In all likelihood, I – I will. For me, it’s not just nominating a woman. It is making sure that we have a progressive woman, and there are progressive women out there. So my very strong tendency is to move in that direction.”
Sanders, who was first to answer the question about policies relating to women, raised the subject of abortion.
“Right now, a woman’s right to control her own body is under massive assault, unprecedented assault,” he said, in reference to the passage of a series of pro-life laws, primarily in southern and Midwestern states.
“Joe, you have in the past, on more than one occasion, voted for the Hyde Amendment, which says that a woman – low-income woman could not use Medicaid funding for an abortion,” Sanders continued. “Is that still your view or have you modified it?”
“It is not my view,” replied Biden. “And by the way, everybody who has been in the Congress voted for the Hyde Amendment at one point or another, because it was locked in other bills.”
Without uttering the word “abortion,” Biden said the reason he has come out in opposition to the Hyde Amendment was because, “if we’re going to have public funding for all healthcare along the line, there is no way you could allow for there to be a requirement that you have Hyde Amendment – a woman who doesn’t have the money could not have coverage under healthcare.”
Biden said he had shifted his position on the Hyde Amendment “a while ago.” He also said that as president he would send immediately to Congress legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. And he told Sanders that he had a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
When Sanders challenged Biden on the latter point, Biden said that his “record of late from NARAL has been 100 percent. I don’t know whether it was 25 years ago.”
Sanders said one of the differences between the two candidates is that he has been consistent. “I’ve always believed in that and you have not. I’m glad you’ve changed your views.”
‘Sold out to the abortion lobby’
“I am so disappointed in Joe Biden,” tweeted Democrats for Life of America executive director Kristen Day, whose organization has been advocating, in vain so far, for someone in the party’s 2020 presidential primary to acknowledge prolife positions.
“He, like so many others, has sold out to the abortion lobby,” Day said. “Apologizing for a record of opposing federal funds to end the lives of pre-born children is shameful. Taxpayer funding of abortion is wrong.”
Biden served in the Senate until early 2009. NARAL says it gave him its 100 percent rating in his last year in Congress. He got 100 percent in a number of other years, but in 2003 his rating dropped to 36 percent and in the 1990s it was at various times 34, 43 and 46 percent. Scores are tallied from senators’ votes on relevant legislation and confirmations.
NARAL president Ilyse Hogue praised Sanders for pushing Biden on the issue and “for holding NARAL up as the gold standard, which we are.”
“We’ve had issues with both at different times, but Bernie is absolutely correct that his own voting record is 100% lifetime.”
Biden shifted his stance on the Hyde Amendment last summer. In June, he drew criticism from rival candidates after his campaign said he still supported the measure. Twenty-four hours later Biden said he had changed his position.
Biden did not say during the debate why he supported the amendment in the past, other than to offer the point that most lawmakers had done so “because it was locked in other bills.”
In his 2008 memoir “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics,” Biden wrote that he was “personally opposed to abortion,” but did not think he had the right to impose “something I accept as a matter of faith” on others.
Recalling a conversation with a liberal Connecticut Democratic colleague as he prepared to cast his first vote on an abortion-related measure, Biden recalled telling Sen. Abe Ribicoff that he would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or “to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.”
He said Ribicoff had advised him to “pick a side.”
“I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than thirty years,” Biden wrote. “I still vote against partial-birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to find ways to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice. That position has earned me the distrust of some women’s groups and the outright enmity of the Right to Life groups.”