Analysis: Where Biden's VP Shortlist Stands on Abortion

If Biden were to be elected president, he would be sworn in at 78 years old--the oldest first-term president in American history.

Former vice-president Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia.
Former vice-president Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. (photo: Matt Smith/Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON —  As Election Day nears, one big question remains outstanding: Who will be joining Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket?

Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party’s nominee for president, committed to selecting a woman for his running mate back in March. That is about all that can be certain about who Biden plans on selecting.

Normally, the selection of a running mate is intended to court a certain segment of the electorate--see: Lyndon Baines Johnson and southern voters; Mike Pence and conservative Christians; and even Biden himself, who was selected to appeal to blue collar workers. With the 2020 election, however, the stakes for selecting a running mate are likely higher.

If Biden were to be elected president, he would be sworn in at 78 years old--the oldest first-term president in American history. During a December 2019 debate, Biden refused to comment on whether or not he would run for a second term, saying, “I’m not even elected to one term yet, and let’s see where we are. Let’s see what happens.”

Because of his age, Biden’s choice of a running mate has been framed as a near lock to run for the presidency in four years if Biden wins in 2020. And his running mate is likely to play a major role in shaping policy during a Biden presidency, especially because Biden himself played an active role in the Obama administration.

If Biden wins the presidency, his administration is expected to roll back Republican administrative efforts to limit federal funding for domestic and international abortion, as well as changes to Title X policy, and to make other changes to abortion policy at the federal level.

On the issue of abortion, CNA examined the voting histories and public policy stances of some names expected to be on Biden’s shortlist.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-CA

Rep. Karen Bass, a five-term member of the House of Representatives, has been one of the lesser-known names to surface as a contender during veepstakes. She is on the House Judiciary Committee and is the chair of the Congressional Black Congress.

Bass has a 100% rating from NARAL, a national organization that supports expanded abortion access. She also has a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In 2013, Bass received the International Family Planning Hero award from Planned Parenthood and the United Nations. She was praised as a “true hero for women’s health and rights” by former Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards.

“Her leadership has been crucial to ensuring that women in the United States and all over the world can decide whether and when to have children, and that they have access to a wide range of reproductive health services. Thanks to her support for international family planning, and others like her, the United States is able to improve the lives of millions of women and girls, and put women’s health and rights at the top of its global development agenda,” Richards said.

Rep. Val Demings, D-FL

Rep. Val Demings was elected to Congress in 2016. Before she was elected, she served as the first-ever female chief of police of the Orlando Police Department. She serves on the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security Committees.

Since arriving in Congress, Demings has had 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL. On the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in 2020, Demings tweeted a call to “redouble our resistance against attempts” to pass pro-life legislation.

“Women's health is not negotiable. Women's bodies belong to no one but themselves,” said Demings.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA

Sen. Kamala Harris is arguably Biden's frontrunner, and has been in the vice presidential conversation since she suspended her own presidential campaign in December.

Harris is a staunch supporter of legal protection for abortion. As California attorney general, she drew the ire of the state Catholic conference by sponsoring a bill compelling pro-life pregnancy centers advertise for “free or low-cost” abortion services. That law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018.

More recently, Harris has confronted Biden over his own record on abortion - challenging the former vice president for not being “pro-choice” enough for the modern Democratic party. And her confrontation has been effective: Harris has been among a group of politicians widely seen to have pushed Biden to the left on abortion.

During the July 31 debate last year, Harris lambasted Biden’s long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services. She accused Biden of “withhold(ing) resources to poor women to have access to reproductive health care, including women who were the victims of rape and incest.”

In response, Biden, who opposed Roe vs. Wade early in his career,   told Harris that he believes abortion to be a constitutional right. Biden promised that, as president, “I in fact will move as president to see to that the Congress legislates [a right to abortion into] the law.”

Amb. Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan Rice served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 until June 2013, and then served as President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor for the remainder of his term. She has never actually run for office, although she did briefly ponder the idea of challenging Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for her Senate seat.

Rice’s name has been put forward as a potential Biden VP. As she has never run for office, she has made few public statements on domestic social issues. Rice was motivated to challenge Collins after her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been a vocal proponent of abortion, and has 100% ratings from both Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL. She wore a Planned Parenthood scarf to President Donald Trump’s inauguration as a show of protest and as a show of support for the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Warren published the “Congressional Plan to Protect Choice,” a slew of proposals of pro-abortion legislation. These proposed legislation included “federal laws to preempt state efforts that functionally limit access to reproductive health care,” which would effectively prevent states from passing pro-life policies; and legislation that would mandate abortion coverage in health plans.

It is uncertain just when exactly Biden intends on announcing his selection of a running mate. The Democratic National Convention kicks off on August 17, so the announcement will happen sometime before then, likely after August 1.