Las Vegas Sun

August 25, 2019

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Brian Greenspun:

Where I Stand: Biden can’t Hyde on this one

If you run, you cannot Hyde.

At least if you are a Democrat in 2019. That is the lesson Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, learned last week as his long-held position on the Hyde Amendment changed overnight — from Thursday to Friday — amidst an avalanche of criticism from practically everyone who will make a decision next year about who will get to run against President Donald Trump in 2020.

The Hyde Amendment, for those who have forgotten and, mostly, for all those who were not born in 1976 when it became law, has changed over time but basically prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in limited cases of rape, incest and when pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. Originally , the only exception was to save the mother. The amendment was expanded during the Clinton administration to include the rape and incest exceptions. What is important to understand, though, is that it has been in full force for more than 40 years.

That means the country and its legislators, and all those who have operated under the amendment’s proscriptions, have found a way to deal with the law and the constant and continuing need of women of limited means to deal with their own personal healthcare decisions as allowed under the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade.

The Hyde Amendment, for most practical purposes, has been viewed as a nuisance over the past few decades — its legal proscriptions notwithstanding — since the smart and determined people who believe a woman has a right to deal with her own personal health decisions have found the loopholes necessary to allow all women the access to such health care as they deem necessary.

But, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a-changin’.

There is a full-scale assault on Roe v. Wade — at the Supreme Court, in the lower courts and in legislatures across America. And, as you might imagine in 2019, the women (and some enlightened men) are mad as hell and they aren’t sitting still while their world spins backwards.

Enter Joe Biden and the Hyde Amendment.I understand why a man who for his entire career has championed a woman’s right to determine what is best for her and her health care wouldn’t have a problem with the Hyde Amendment. He knows how to operate around it, as the country has been doing for more than 40 years.As far as most of us are concerned, it was just an impotent political expression of a bygone era.

But where Biden fell a bit short is understanding where women are today. They are under siege and they are not going to go quietly as the forces of male oppression and misguided political morality close in on their right to choose — a right that for most women alive today was fought for and won by their mothers and grandmothers.

A prime example of that oppression and political compromise is the Hyde Amendment — at least in the hearts and minds of Democratic voters and the majority of women of all political stripes who understand the stakes involved as a minority view in this country tries to hijack the rights of women to make their own health care decisions. Just like the men get to do in America.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that a few of Biden’s female friends cornered him this week and explained what Hyde means in their battle for equality in America. Hyde is no longer just an impotent expression of yesterday, it is a hammer with which women’s rights are being pounded across our country in 2019.

Given where he has always been in his support for a woman’s right to decide for herself, the decision was easy. That, I believe, is why he came out Friday in opposition to everything for which the Hyde Amendment stands.

Forget that it was a meaningless law. It has become a powerful symbol of female oppression. And that just won’t do in Biden’s world.

He did not flip-flop. He did not evolve. What Biden did last week was to resolve to be consistent with how he has lived his entire life.

He spoke up for women. Good on him.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.