We can already see that the new US administration will not be a friend of religious freedom, writes David Quinn
The incoming US president calls to mind one of those Irish politicians who have ‘evolved’ on abortion. Once they were pro-life, but now they are firmly pro-choice, even some remain ‘personally opposed’.
Back in the 1980s, Mr Biden backed a change to the American Constitution that would have allowed individual US states to decide their own abortion laws. In 1973, the US Supreme Court had imposed a liberal abortion regime across all of America in its infamous Roe v Wade ruling.
For several decades, Mr Biden also supported something called the ‘Hyde Amendment’, which bans federal funding for abortion. The amendment goes all the way back to 1976. Back in those days, the Democratic party was not as firmly in the pro-abortion camp as it is today.
What Mr Biden supported back in the day, the effective reversal of Roe v Wade, is now unthinkable in the Democratic party.
Mr Biden has ‘evolved’ accordingly. He is now a full-throated supporter of Roe v Wade and said so repeatedly on the campaign trail.
He has also reversed course on the Hyde Amendment. His change of position occurred during the battle earlier in the year to be the Democratic candidate in the presidential election. Under huge pressure from his rivals, not least his running mate, Kamala Harris, he said he now wants the Hyde Amendment reversed and for abortion to receive federal funding, which is to say from money raised centrally in Washington and not just from local state taxes.
On abortion generally, he says he is personally opposed but would not ’impose’ his views on anyone else. This was the position worked out by fellow Catholic and fellow Democrat, Mario Cuomo, the late Governor of New York years ago.
As Mr Biden has said: “I’m prepared to accept for me, personally, [the] doctrine of my Church” about when life begins, “but I’m not prepared to impose that on every other person.”
This raises the pertinent question; when should we ‘impose’ a view on when life begins? You have to do it at some point or there would be no law at all against killing other human beings.
In any case, under a Biden/Harris presidency, we can expect full backing for abortion. He will also restore federal funding to organisations that perform abortions in developing countries. Even if his heart isn’t fully in it, he will not resist in any way the strident pro-choice voices in his party. In other words, he will behave like many of our politicians have in recent times and roll over on the issue.
He has already done the same on same-sex marriage and transgender rights. That ‘evolution’ occurred in 2012, four years into the Barack Obama presidency, after decades in politics.
We can see how far he has ‘evolved’ when we see his attitude to religious freedom, which he is happy to limit in the name of ‘reproductive rights’.
Under the Obama-era healthcare plan (often known as ‘Obamacare’), employers are required to cover contraception and the morning-after pill in their employees’ health insurance plans.
This was resisted by, among other groups, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who said this would force them to pay for something they considered immoral, in particular the morning-after-pill which can act as an abortifacient.
The Trump Administration, backed by a Supreme Court ruling, supported the sisters, but Mr Biden and Ms Harris want to reverse that, which is to say, they want religious organisations to pay for drugs and procedures (sterilisation, for instance) they believe to be immoral.
So, we can see that a Biden Administration will not be a friend of religious freedom.
Needless to say, none of this has come out in the Irish media which has barely covered Joe Biden and what he actually believes at all.
The result is that many practicing Catholics are probably blissfully unaware of how deeply problematic his presidency will be from a pro-life and religious freedom point of view.
But if he is bad, Kamala Harris is far worse. Apart from her extremely strong pro-choice stance, as a senator, she supported a law that would force Catholic hospitals to perform gender transition surgeries, open women’s toilets to men, and force girls and women to compete against boys and men in athletic competitions. Mr Biden will no doubt support a similar measure.
The incoming vice-president is Baptist by background, not Catholic.
We see a pattern here, and it is the same one playing out in Ireland. When religious convictions clash with so-called ‘reproductive rights’ and sexual freedoms, it is almost always the former which are forced to give way.
In the case of Joe Biden and Catholic politicians like him, they hide behind the ‘personally opposed, but…’ formula.
Mr Biden is almost certainly not ideologically pro-abortion the way Ms Harris is, and he has probably convinced himself of the validity of the above formulation, but it is incredibly badly thought through.
It relegates religious convictions on certain issues to the private sphere and essentially seeks to banishes them, and those who hold them, from political life.
‘Reproductive rights’ are held to belong to the private sphere, in a way (say) immigration rights do not, and religion, we are told, should never be allowed to interfere in the private sphere except purely as a matter of personal choice. (In other words, it must fit into a pro-choice worldview).
But of course, abortion is not purely a private matter because it involves the deliberate killing of a human being, and when a congregation of religious sisters are forced to pay for abortifacients, then who is doing the imposing?
Likewise, if Catholic hospitals are forced to perform ‘gender realignment’ surgery, again, who is doing the imposing?
What we can expect in a Joe Biden presidency, in other words, is the further suppression of anything and everything that stands in the way of the abortion and ‘reproductive rights’ juggernaut. Mr Biden might not be driving that juggernaut as such, but he will nonetheless grease the wheels and send it on its way. His Catholic Faith won’t be allowed to get in its way.