Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden on Thursday dropped his longtime support for a congressional ban on using taxpayer money to pay for abortions, bowing to intense pressure from the party’s left wing and his rivals for the nomination.
“Circumstances change,” the former vice president said at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Atlanta.
The former vice president said he had been struggling with the issue and blamed what he called a Republican assault on abortion rights, including the closure of clinics in poor communities, for forcing him to change his position.
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right,” he said. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
Mr. Biden, 76, has long maintained that he struggled to reconcile his Catholic faith with his political support for abortion rights.
The turnabout came after two days of intense criticism from rivals, which appeared for the first time to trip up Mr. Biden’s run at the front of the crowded field of Democratic candidates.
The criticism from his primary opponents included a pointed jab from Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey that the Hyde amendment was hurting black women, an important voting bloc in the Democratic primaries.
Before articulating his newfound opposition to the Hyde Amendment that enforces the ban, Mr. Biden told the crowd that he made no apologies for his past position or his reversal.
Planned Parenthood applauded his move.
“Happy to see Joe Biden embrace what we have long known to be true: Hyde blocks people — particularly women of color and women with low incomes — from accessing safe, legal abortion care,” said Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
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