Biden, RFK Jr. Try to Walk Back Extreme Views on Abortion

21 May 2024

7.6 MINS

Both Biden and Kennedy have staked out a position at odds with the majority of Americans. Polls have shown for decades that the vast majority of Americans oppose late-term abortion.

Seeking to stave off the increasingly perilous threat posed by Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Joe Biden’s campaign positioned the president as a moderate who “doesn’t support full-term abortions” — a claim pro-life advocates call deceptive. The assertion also clashes with Biden-aligned super PACs portraying RFK Jr. as a supporter of “national abortion bans.”

Kennedy said he supported a woman’s right to have an abortion “even if it’s full-term” on the May 8 episode of “The Sage Steele Show.” Kennedy also threw his support behind sweeping, top-down national legislation that would impose abortion-on-demand on all 50 states, telling the former ESPN host, “I wouldn’t leave it to the states.” RFK Jr.’s comments echoed an interview he gave last month to Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, in which he revealed that he viewed decisions about whether to have an abortion at “eight months” as morally “nuanced and complex.”

The Independent candidate’s most recent comments drew instant fire. Kennedy “would use the power of the federal government to wipe out protections for life in the states and impose unlimited abortion on demand all the way up to ‘full term,’ as he puts it, everywhere in America. That makes him unacceptable to millions of pro-life voters nationwide,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has exposed himself as a true extremist. He is no different from Joe Biden or Kamala Harris when it comes to supporting brutal abortions at any time for any reason, even when babies in the womb feel pain, with zero limits or exceptions.”

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, agreed Kennedy’s apparently full-throated endorsement of abortion “is the position of Joe Biden, the Democrat Party, and the abortion industry. RFK Jr is just being less deceptive about it.”

But the Biden campaign apparently saw Kennedy’s abortion remarks as an opportunity to contrast himself with his former Democratic rival. “The president doesn’t support full-term abortions, as he’s made clear many times. He thinks Roe [v. Wade] got it right,” Lauren Hitt, a senior Biden campaign official, told Fox News.

Experts say the Biden-Harris campaign is playing fast-and-loose with the facts. “President Biden’s views on killing unborn children have changed so often throughout his political career it’s not shocking his campaign is trying to say that he doesn’t support full-term abortions,” Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. In fact, Senator Biden once voted for a Right to Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and voted both for and against federal funding of abortion. “Unfortunately, that all changed when he thought that, to achieve political power, he needed to endorse killing unborn children until the moment of birth,” said Szoch.

“President Biden is trying to build his campaign around the popularity of Roe, banking on the fact that the majority of Americans don’t recognise the companion cases of Doe v. Bolton and Casey v. Planned Parenthood effectively allowed abortion through birth,” Szoch told TWS. In theory, Roe allowed regulation of abortion after viability. But the Supreme Court’s opinion in Doe v. Bolton, decided the same day as Roe, held that women have the right to an abortion if their “health” is threatened; and the health of the mother includes “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.” In practice, abortionists could terminate an unborn child’s life for any reason. “Roe had wide-open exceptions allowing late term abortion on healthy babies as Biden and his team know full well,” noted Dannenfelser in a social media post on X.

As president, Joe Biden has implied Roe did not go far enough toward legalising late-term abortions. Biden has endorsed the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” (WHPA), which would erase the 1,381 pro-life laws enacted while Roe remained a controlling legal precedent. “If passed, this act would prevent states from protecting the unborn in any way — including from being aborted just minutes before birth or from being aborted based on their sex, race, or diagnosis of a genetic abnormality,” Szoch told TWS. “If anyone wants proof of that happening, just take a look at the evidence collected from Cesare Santangelo’s abortion business, just blocks from the White House, where over 100 unborn babies were recovered after being aborted. Several of those babies’ bodies indicate that they at minimum were victims of abortion long after viability and may have been victims of infanticide.”

RFK Jr. did not say whether he would favor the WHPA or the Reproductive Choice for All Act (S. 317), supported by Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The latter bill would allow the state to protect unborn children after the point of viability, provided it does not impose an “undue burden” on the right to abortion and does not threaten “the life or health” of the mother.

The Biden-Harris campaign has increasingly felt the heat from Kennedy, the scion of one of the nation’s most powerful Democratic dynasties. Democratic super PACs MoveOn.org, Future Forward, American Bridge, and Clear Choice are weighing how much money they should spend spiking RFK Jr.’s Independent presidential bid.

But the Biden campaign’s decision to paint RFK Jr. as a radical pro-abortion candidate conflicted with the message of other Democrats and Biden-aligned PACs that have said Kennedy is too conservative, especially on abortion. During the same Fox News story in which Biden’s campaign opposed “full-term” abortions, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesperson told Fox News that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “can’t be trusted to stand up for reproductive freedom.” DNC communications adviser Lis Smith added, “With reproductive freedom under attack, we need leaders who will stand strong for women.”

Biden’s forces have been beating this drum for months. Matt Bennett, president of the liberal group Third Way, wrote off RFK Jr. as “a right-wing crank.” Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America) — which has endorsed Biden-Harris for reelection — has taken out advertisements in Michigan and Wisconsin attempting to link RFK to “national abortion bans,” stating, “Kennedy Jr. and Shanahan would put your reproductive freedom at risk.”

That theory came from another apparently botched Kennedy interview. Last August, Kennedy told NBC News, “The decision to abort a child should be up to the woman during the first three months of life.” Although he said he only favored laws protecting life “once a child is viable outside the womb,” he appeared to endorse national legislation preventing abortions after 15 or 21 weeks. Within hours, his campaign claimed Kennedy “misunderstood” the question and that his “position on abortion is that it is always the woman’s right to choose.” RFK Jr.’s rhetorical backing of “full-term” abortions contradicted his comments to his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, who had told Steele roughly a week before Steele’s RFK Jr. interview, “My understanding is that he absolutely believes in limits on abortion, and we’ve talked about this.”

After the latest controversy, RFK Jr. pivoted to a more popular view, allowing for states to protect life after the point of viability. “I think there’s a compelling argument that the state has an interest in protecting a fully-formed fetus. I absolutely think that that argument is very convincing,” RFK Jr. told Steele earlier in the interview.

Kennedy tried to clarify his stance yet further last Friday on social media. “I support the emerging consensus that abortion should be unrestricted up until a certain point. I believe that point should be when the baby is viable outside the womb,” but “I would allow appropriate restrictions on abortion in the final months of pregnancy, just as Roe v. Wade did.”

Kennedy further explained his modest abortion evolution on “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast” on Wednesday, May 15. “There’s no way that you can change my mind by calling me names, or by criticising me, or by marginalising or vilifying me, but you can always change my mind with facts,” said Kennedy. “My assumption was that any abortion that occurs in the ninth month” — at which point “you’re basically killing a child,” Kennedy said — involved only “instances where the mother’s life was at stake or there was some other overwhelming medical issue involved.” He had also told Shapiro, “There’s always some kind of extenuating circumstances” for late-term abortions.

“But then I learned I was wrong, that there are actually a huge amount, comparatively, of elective abortions at that time,” said RFK Jr. As this author has noted, a study from Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport, both of whom support abortion-on-demand, concluded that “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

“My belief is that, at that time you’ve got a fully-formed, viable child. The state has some interest in protecting that baby,” said Kennedy.

“Mr. Kennedy’s position, as posted on X, is perfectly clear — no restrictions until the point of viability outside the womb,” a spokesperson for Kennedy’s 2024 presidential campaign told the Washington Examiner.

In fact, both Biden and Kennedy have staked out a position at odds with the majority of Americans. Polls have shown for decades that the vast majority of Americans oppose late-term abortion. Two-thirds of Americans said abortion should not be legal after the first trimester, according to a 2023 Marist poll. Fewer than one in five Americans said an abortionist should be able to end the life of an unborn child at any stage of pregnancy, with “no exceptions,” according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

As president, Joe Biden has never enumerated a single abortion he would oppose or pro-life bill he would sign.

RFK Jr. has also spoken of abortion in softer, more compassionate tones than the Biden campaign. “Every abortion is a tragedy. Many of them leave permanent trauma on the woman,” Kennedy told Steele. “I don’t think it’s ever okay.” On social media, Kennedy noted, “Sometimes, women abort healthy, viable late-term fetuses. These cases of purely ‘elective’ late-term abortion are very upsetting.”

Instead of backing pro-life legislation, Kennedy touted his “More Choices, More Life” plan. “The centrepiece of More Choices, More Life is a massive subsidised daycare initiative,” declares Kennedy on his website. “[W]e will pay 100% of care for the three million children under five who live beneath our poverty line. And we will cap the cost at 10% of family income for everyone else.” He would also increase the Child Tax Credit. Such a plan would “reduce abortions — by choice, not by force,” he contended.

Biden, too, has supported government-funded, universal pre-K — which has been associated with negative outcomes for children — and expanding the CTC.

Unlike Biden, Kennedy promised to streamline the U.S. adoption process and aid homes for expectant mothers struggling to care for their children.

The Biden campaign’s decision to attack Kennedy’s abortion position from both sides coincides with polls that show RFK Jr. potentially costing the Democratic candidate critical support in swing states. Republicans, too, have worried that Kennedy’s populist rhetoric may undercut their candidate in the fall. For his part, Kennedy has challenged Biden to drop out of the race and revealed that the Trump campaign approached him numerous times about becoming Trump’s vice president in 2024.

In addition to Kennedy, Biden faces third party challenges on the Left from Green Party candidate Jill Stein and professor Cornel West. “The more exposure these guys get, the better it is for us,” Trump ally Steve Bannon told The New York Times.

Aside from RFK Jr., Donald Trump faces no meaningful Independent challenge. The Constitution Party has nominated Randall Terry for president.


Republished with thanks to The Washington Stand. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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One Comment

  1. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 7 June 2024 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Two men who claim to be Catholics who support abortion are inspired by Satanic forces.

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