Fresh on the heels of the Biden campaign’s public endorsement of the Hyde Amendment, the Intercept helpfully reminds us how, in 2012, then-Vice President Joe Biden also wanted to gut the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
Biden worked doggedly with conservative Catholic leaders to push for a broad religious-based exemption that would have left millions without contraception coverage. His reasoning? That providing contraception coverage would upset white Catholic men—men coincidentally just like him!—and make them less likely to vote for Obama’s reelection later that year. He apparently had less concern for the millions who would have not had their contraception paid for under his proposal.
Biden’s opposition to the ACA’s contraception provisions was not a secret at the time and was regularly referenced in news coverage. In its reporting, the Intercept pulls from 2012 coverage that made clear just how out of step Biden was with his own party.
Take this ABC News story that goes into the details of the debate within the Obama administration on the contraception mandate. Biden and then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, a Catholic like Biden, were on one side, and largely women—from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett—were on the other:
The two sides couldn’t even agree about what they were debating. In the fall, [Planned Parenthood’s Cecile] Richards brought in polling indicating that the American people overwhelmingly supported the birth control benefit in health insurance. She also highlighted statistics showing the overwhelming use of birth control.
The Vice President and others argued that this wouldn’t be seen as an issue of contraception - it would be seen as an issue of religious liberty. They questioned the polling of the rule advocates, arguing that it didn’t explain the issue in full, it ignored the question of what religious groups should have to pay for. And they argued that women voters for whom this was an important issue weren’t likely to vote for Mitt Romney, who has drawn a strong anti-abortion line as a presidential candidate, saying he would end federal funding to Planned Parenthood and supporting a “personhood” amendment that defines life as beginning at the moment of fertilization.
Luckily for us, Biden did not succeed in carving out a broad exemption for religious institutions (though the Trump administration has done its best to carry that torch for him). But Biden’s opposition serves as a reminder that some of his most deeply held beliefs—his Catholic faith, his personal objection to abortion, his political calculus about which voters matter and which don’t—continue to inform his political decisions and worldview today. And when the needs of women conflict with those views, it’s clear who loses.