Joe Biden Said He Did Not View Abortion ‘As a Choice and a Right’ in 2006

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In a newly unearthed video from 2006, Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he supported Roe v. Wade but did not view abortion as “a choice and a right” — remarks that raise further questions about how he views abortion rights as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination and faces pressure over his position on the issue.

“I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy,” Mr. Biden said in a videotaped interview with Texas Monthly, resurfaced on Thursday by CNN. “I think it should be rare and safe,” he added. “I think we should be focusing on how to limit the number of abortions.”

Mr. Biden referred to himself as a “little bit of an odd man out in my party” because he wouldn’t vote for federal financing of abortions, had voted to limit late-term abortions, but supported Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the legal right to the procedure.

The video added a new dimension to Mr. Biden’s vacillating record on abortion. Citing his Roman Catholic faith, Mr. Biden has in the past tried to stake out a middle ground on the issue, asserting his support for individual abortion rights while insisting that taxpayers should not fund abortions.

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Last Wednesday Mr. Biden’s staff said he maintained his longstanding position in support of the Hyde Amendment. The provision bans federal funding for abortion in most cases, meaning the procedure is available only to women with private insurance and those who can afford it.

The next day, faced with mounting backlash from the Democratic base and his primary opponents, Mr. Biden announced he had reversed that position.

“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,” he said at a dinner in Atlanta hosted by the Democratic National Committee.

The reversal came during a time of heightened concern among abortion rights activists, as numerous states, primarily in the South, have passed laws sharply limiting the procedure.

Responding to the newly unearthed video, Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, which is devoted to electing pro-choice women to political office, said, “Abortion is absolutely a right and one that we believe all Democratic presidential candidates should support. We hope that Vice President Biden’s recent remarks on choice mean that he has abandoned this kind of thinking.”

Asked Thursday for a comment on the video, Mr. Biden’s campaign declined to provide a statement to The Times but referred a reporter to the campaign’s statement to CNN.

“Vice President Biden supports a woman’s right to choose and he believes that we are in a moment of unprecedented assault on choice in this country,” said the statement by a campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates. “Vice President Biden would nominate judges who would stand firm on upholding all of our constitutional rights, including a woman’s right to choose.”

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