On Sunday night, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) practically tripped over one another in their promises to force taxpayers to fund the killing of unborn babies. Sanders explicitly adopted logic on abortion that would also require the federal government to finance the purchasing of guns for low-income Americans under the Second Amendment — a policy that he himself would abhor.
At one point in the debate, Sanders excoriated Biden for having voted for the Hyde Amendment, “which denies low-income women the right to get an abortion.”
This was an outright lie, but the logic behind it echoes the pro-abortion arguments in the current Supreme Court case June Medical Services v. Gee.
The Hyde Amendment does not deny anyone the “right” to have an abortion. It merely stipulates that taxpayer dollars shall not finance the killing of unborn babies, which many millions of Americans believe constitutes a form of murder. The Hyde Amendment protects the consciences of taxpayers without denying what Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) codified as the “right” to an abortion. The Hyde Amendment provides for some degree of peaceful disagreement among a society very much divided on the morality of killing unborn babies.
By insisting that Hyde involves denying a woman’s right to get an abortion, Bernie was playing into the logic of access rights. Abortion activists claim that a right to an abortion does not mean much if a woman cannot access abortions. In the June Medical case, abortion clinics argue that the State of Louisiana cannot enact regulations intended to keep women safe because those regulations could lead to the closure of abortion clinics, and that would infringe on women’s rights not just to get an abortion but to access one in their area.
By this logic, fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution are effectively denied when people cannot access those rights easily enough. By this logic, the First Amendment right to free speech should guarantee every American a platform to speak and the right to free assembly should guarantee every American the ability to force people to assemble with him or her.
Yet the most direct corollary involves the right to keep and bear arms, which has a stronger basis in the Constitution than the right to abortion ever has. Unlike the right to abortion, which was “discovered” in the “penumbras” of the Fourteenth Amendment — an amendment passed by state legislators that were even then enacting laws to ban and restrict abortion — the right to keep and bear arms is clearly expressed in the Second Amendment. There is arguably far more reason for the Supreme Court to uphold the right to access firearms than there is for the Court to uphold the “right” to access abortion.
By Bernie’s logic against the Hyde Amendment, low-income Americans do not really have the right to keep and bear arms because they cannot afford guns. Therefore, the government should buy guns for low-income civilians in order to safeguard this important right. The wide array of gun-control groups would object, but how dare they engage in class warfare by denying poor Americans a fundamental constitutional right?!
Bernie Sanders was far from alone in opposing the Hyde Amendment at the Democratic debate, however. He asked Biden about the former vice president’s many votes for the Hyde Amendment, and Biden joined Sanders in attacking this provision that protects the consciences of pro-life Americans.
Bernie again attacked the Hyde Amendment, which he characterized as saying “that a woman, a low-income woman, cannot use Medicaid funding for an abortion.”
Biden distanced himself from the provision. “The reason why I affirmatively came out opposed to the Hyde Amendment was because if we’re going to have public funding for all health care along the line, there is no way you could allow for there to be a requirement [like the] Hyde Amendment, [which stipulates that] a woman who doesn’t have the money could not have coverage under health care.”
Bernie puts Biden on the defensive over abortion by attacking him for his flip on the Hyde Amendment (bans federal funding for abortions).
And Biden re-emphasizes his full support for abortion access: "It is not my view. It is not my view." pic.twitter.com/Hk4wrWVfGh
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) March 16, 2020
Both Bernie and Biden insist that abortion is a form of “health care,” but this is a controversial issue. Many Americans would say that the killing of an unborn baby in the womb is the opposite of health care, especially since it often involves long-term harm for the mothers, as well.
Furthermore, supporters of the Second Amendment could make the case that access to firearms is essential for the preservation of human life. Good guys with guns helped save lives during the horrific shooting at a church in White Settlement, Texas, last year.
If the government refuses to protect the consciences of pro-life taxpayers, why should it protect the consciences of gun-control advocates who abhor the idea of arming the citizenry?
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.