Thirty-five years ago, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, who was then serving as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, gave a speech explaining why he was going to vote against confirming Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Biden spoke as a self-proclaimed “child of God” and claimed his opposition to Bork was all about God-given rights.
“I believe that all Americans are born with certain inalienable rights, certain God-given rights that they have, not because the Constitution says they have them,” Biden said in the text of a speech preserved in the Congressional Record. “I have rights because I exist, in spite of my government, not because of my government.”
“As a child of God, my rights are not derived from the majority, the State or the Constitution,” said Biden. “Rather, they were given to me and to each of our fellow citizens by the creator and represent the essence of human dignity.
“It is with this spirit that the framers of our Constitution met in Philadelphia 200 years ago,” he said.
Twenty-five years after he expressed this point of view, as this column has noted before, Biden discussed his views on abortion in a vice presidential debate with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who moderated that debate, insisted on inserting the candidates’ religion into the abortion issue. “We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this,” said Raddatz. “And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.”
Ryan, who is pro-life, said that “reason and science” informed his position.
“Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life?” said Ryan. “It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.”
“Now, I believe that life begins at conception,” he said. “That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life.”
Unlike Ryan, Biden did not cite “reason and science.” He spoke of abortion as if it were solely a religious issue and addressed the question of whether human life begins at conception as if it were something that was merely “the church’s judgment” rather than a scientific fact.
“My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” Biden said. “And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.”
It was false for Biden to suggest that whether life begins at conception is merely “the church’s judgment.” It is an inescapable fact, just as it is an inescapable fact that abortion ends a human life.
But last Sunday in New York, the man who cited his recognition of God-given rights in explaining his opposition to the confirmation of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court declared once again that he intends to sign legislation declaring a nationwide right to abort unborn babies.
“Look, here’s the bottom line: If Republicans gain control of Congress and pass a nationwide ban on abortion, I will veto it,” said Biden. “And if we elect — they give me two more Democrats in the Senate and we keep control of the House, we’re going to codify Roe v. Wade in January and make it the law of the land.”
This is Biden’s commitment: to sign a law that legalizes the mass killing of innocent human beings.