Some Democratic politicians are calling Supreme Court justices and their pro-life supporters far-right extremists and radicals. Interestingly, however, it’s these same politicians who have become extreme on abortion over the years. Many of them once held the exact viewpoint they’re attacking today.
President Joe Biden and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) are two of the best examples.
Biden is an abortion extremist now. He doesn’t seem to support restrictions on the practice and is fine with the United States being a global outlier on abortion.
People might remember that Biden, who claims to be personally pro-life, supported the Hyde Amendment until June 2019. Early in his Senate career, Biden wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade and send abortion law back to the states.
“I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far,” he told the Washingtonian in 1974. “I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
However, this week, Biden said of the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, "If this decision holds, it's really quite a radical decision."
Markey followed a similar trajectory. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1976 with support from Massachusetts Citizens for Life, he was a pro-life Catholic Democrat. When Markey first ran for a House seat, the Harvard Crimson wrote, “He says his abortion position is a matter of conscience, because he thinks abortion is wrong.” The paper also noted that Markey wanted to add a Human Life Amendment, which would go further than simply repealing Roe v. Wade and sending abortion law back to the states.
Markey flipped on that topic sometime between then and 1983, the first time he ran for U.S. Senate.
Now, this is the way he talks about pro-lifers: “A stolen, illegitimate, and far-right Supreme Court majority appears set to destroy the right to abortion, an essential right which protects the health, safety, and freedom of millions of Americans,” Markey tweeted. “There is no other recourse. We must expand the court.”
This is the same Markey who supported the ROE Act in Massachusetts in 2020; it’s a law that, among other things, removed existing language from Massachusetts laws guaranteeing protection to babies born alive during an attempted abortion.
And these two aren’t alone: The party continues to drift far outside the global mainstream on this topic.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) was once pro-life. As governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, Kaine passed a partial-birth abortion ban, signed off on the state’s “Choose Life” license plate program, and provided funding for pregnancy resource centers. He also supported the state's existing abortion restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period, parental notification for minors, and no public funding for elective abortions, as Vox points out.
That’s different from 2022 Tim Kaine, who has a 95% rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and had a tweet attacking Republicans on abortion earlier this week.
“The draft opinion shows why the Senate GOP denied Merrick Garland a hearing and rushed Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation,” he tweeted. “2 stolen seats = Taking away women’s rights. It’s been the goal all along.”
The Democratic Party used to run on reducing the number of abortions that took place. That was the mantra of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama when they ran for president. Now, Kaine, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) are the only congressional Democrats out of more than 260 that back the Hyde Amendment.
The Democratic Party used to have room for pro-lifers. That’s why it couldn’t codify abortion rights in the late 1970s and between 2009 and 2010 despite having 62 and 60 U.S. senators, respectively.
It’s no longer the party of Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey Sr. fighting for life against Planned Parenthood in a case that reached the Supreme Court (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). It’s definitely not the party of former Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade of Roe v. Wade fame. It’s the party of people, such as Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), backing the so-called Women's Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade into law and nullify pro-life laws.
Pro-lifers have stayed the same; it’s the Democratic Party that has changed and maligned and abandoned them.
Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports) is a political reporter for the New Boston Post in Massachusetts.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the Washington Examiner reported that Sen. Tim Kaine does not support the Hyde Amendment. Kaine issued a statement in February saying that he does support the amendment. The Washington Examiner regrets the error.