Contradicting past statements, Biden says he doesn’t believe life begins at conception

Biden Joe Biden/ lev radin/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden (D) said on Friday, Sept. 3, that he does not believe life begins at conception - contradicting his previous statements on when life begins.

Biden answered a reporter’s question on abortion on Friday, after addressing the August jobs numbers at the White House. “I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” Biden said. “I don’t agree, but I respect that. I’m not going to impose that on people.” 

Biden’s declaration that he does not believe life begins at conception is contrary to what he has stated in the past. 

At the 2012 vice presidential debate against Republican nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Biden stated plainly that he believed life began at conception. 

"Life begins at conception, that's the Church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life," he said. "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.”

Biden said at the time that he does “not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I'm not going to interfere with that.”

In a September 2008 interview, shortly before he was elected vice president, Biden said that he was “prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2270 states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

On Friday afternoon, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison responded to Biden's comments on Twitter, "People always claimed that President Biden was personally opposed to abortion."

"Today, we’ve all learned the painful and disturbing truth," he said.

Biden was asked by a reporter to speak to women in Texas, following the state’s pro-life law going into effect on Wednesday. The law bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as the sixth week of a pregnancy. It allows for people to report illegal abortions, and is enforced through private lawsuits.

Biden was asked what, if anything, his administration could do to “protect abortion rights on a federal level.” 

The president said that he has been and will continue to be “a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion nationwide. 

Biden said that the Texas law “sort of creates a vigilante system” which rewards people who report illegal abortions. 

“I know this sounds ridiculous, almost un-American, what we’re talking about,” he said. 

While the president said that he “respected the views” of people “who don’t support Roe v. Wade,” he emphasized that he did not agree with them. He said that he had asked the Department of Justice to investigate if anything could be done to prevent “independent actions of individuals” enforcing the Texas Heartbeat Act.

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“I don’t know enough to give you an answer yet,” Biden told the reporter. “I’ve asked for that to be checked.”

On Wednesday evening, the Supreme Court declined a petition to block the Texas law in a 5-4 decision. The court did not rule on the law itself, but rather refused to grant a stay that would block the law from going into effect. 

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett all ruled to deny the abortion providers’ petition to block the law. Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, all dissented from the decision.

The following day, Biden directed his administration to examine “what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”

This article was updated on Sept. 3 with Bishop Hying's tweet.

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