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Biden in clash over abortion rights

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his 2020 presidential campaign rally on Wednesday in Concord, N.H. Credit: Getty Images/Scott Eisen

Joe's risky choice

There's much about Joe Biden that will test his front-runner status in the 2020 primary season — his age, his support for a 1994 crime bill disdained by progressives and a career-long propensity for gaffes, to name a few. Now he is courting the wrath of pro-abortion-rights Democrats who dominate the party as it sorts through the candidates who want to take on Donald Trump.

Biden's campaign confirmed an NBC News report Wednesday that he remains in favor of the Hyde Amendment, a four-decade-old ban on using federal funds for abortion services, except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman. Most Democratic White House hopefuls favor their party’s latest platform calling for the outright repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Several are offering plans to expand access to abortion for low-income women.

"I am absolutely opposed to the idea that a woman is not going to have an ability to exercise her choice based on how much money she's got,” said California's Sen. Kamala Harris. New York's Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted that "reproductive rights are human rights, period. They should be nonnegotiable for all Democrats.” Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders, second to Biden in polls, tweeted: "There is #NoMiddleGround on women's rights."

In a statement Wednesday, Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights group NARAL, said there is “no political or ideological excuse” for Biden’s support for the amendment. Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, a political action committee that works to elect Democratic women, called his stand "unacceptable."

The fight over abortion rights has taken on a higher profile in recent months as Republican-led states including Alabama and Georgia have passed new restrictions likely to end up before the Supreme Court, where two Trump nominees now sit, in a bid to undo its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide. When Biden arrived in the Senate that year, he opposed Roe v. Wade. He also fought Medicaid exemptions for rape and incest.

Nowadays, "Joe Biden firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned," a campaign representative said, and he would be "open to repeal" of the Hyde Amendment "if avenues for women to access their protected rights under Roe V Wade are closed."

Whether that will be enough to mollify pro-choice Democrats is a question mark.

Abortion foes win with Trump

The Trump administration said Wednesday it is ending government medical research that uses human fetal tissue, overriding the advice of scientists who say it has led to lifesaving medical advances. The decision was a major victory for abortion opponents.

The Health and Human Services Department said in a statement that government-funded research by universities that involves fetal tissue can continue for now, subject to additional scrutiny. The department said its new policy aims to balance "pro-life" and "pro-science" imperatives.

The government's top medical scientist, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, said last December that he believes "there's strong evidence that scientific benefits come from fetal tissue research." It has led to lifesaving advances, including vaccines for rubella and rabies and drugs to treat HIV. Scientists also called the research vital for treatments that harness the body's immune system to battle cancer and other health threats, The Associated Press reported.

Janison: Still seeking a border win

Trump's history of finding solutions to the illegal immigration flow across the Mexican border has been a loser. Mexico wouldn't pay for his wall and Congress wouldn't either despite a government shutdown, and the outcome of his emergency order to divert military funds for the wall is uncertain. He's sent troops there and provoked outrage by separating families. Yet the migrant influx in May, according to new data, was the highest in seven years.

Now Trump is gambling that the threat of tariffs will force Mexico take more decisive action. As Newsday's Dan Janison writes, he's facing resistance from within his own party, especially Republicans from border states dependent on Mexican trade. "We're holding a gun to our own heads," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Trump sticks to his Irish greens

Trump arrived Wednesday in Ireland for a two-night stay at his financially struggling Doonbeg golf resort. The only other part of Ireland on his itinerary was the VIP lounge at Shannon Airport, the compromise site for a brief meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who balked at paying an official visit to Trump's golf course.

The Guardian reports Varadkar looked uncomfortable as Trump played down Irish concerns that a British departure from the European Union under Brexit could mean the return of a "hard border" between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Comparing it to the U.S.-Mexican border, where Trump wants to build a wall, Trump said, “I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border.”

Varadkar quickly retorted: “I think one thing we want to avoid, of course, is a wall or border between us.”

Trump is due to fly Thursday to ceremonies in Normandy, France, marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and then return to the 120-room hotel at Doonbeg for a second night.

The would-be warrior

In an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan, Trump has said he "would not have minded" at all serving in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, though he was "never a fan" of the conflict. He avoided the draft with a medical deferment for a claim of bone spurs in his heel. 

Trump said “I think I make up for it now” by pushing through higher military spending. 

He also defended his ban on transgender people serving in the military. "They take massive amounts of drugs," the president said, "they have to, and also, and you're not allowed to take drugs, you're in the military you're not allowed to take any drugs." Trump went on to say that if a service member took aspirin following a medical procedure, they would "have to break rules and regulations in order to have that."

In reality, U.S. military personnel can and do take prescription drugs, including hormones, with approval, for medical conditions.

AOC: Solitary for Manafort appalling

The prospect that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will await a New York trial in solitary confinement at Rikers Island drew a protest from a surprising source — progressive Bronx-Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That’s what solitary confinement is," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary."

It did not allay her concerns when she was told that Manafort may technically be placed in protective custody. She tweeted that while it's a separate method, it "does not necessarily exclude solitary. If he is in fact not being held in solitary, great. Release everyone else from it, too.”

What else is happening:

  • Bill de Blasio's effort to join the pile-on over Biden's support for the Hyde Amendment went awry. "When it comes to supporting American women on issues like repealing the Hyde Amendment, @JoeBiden is Dr. Jekyll," the mayor tweeted. After Twitter users pointed out Jekyll was the good guy in the Robert Louis Stevenson story, de Blasio acknowledged, "I need to brush up on late 19th century literature."
  • At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in London, Trump decided to play fact-checker with a vengeance. He heard actress/singer Bette Midler had apologized for attributing a false quote to Trump. So he tweeted that Midler was a "washed up psycho" and "a sick scammer." It's an old feud — he tweeted in 2012 that Midler was "an extremely unattractive woman."
  • Washington officials and the U.S. Park Police confirmed to The Washington Post that Trump plans to speak from the Lincoln Memorial at his Trumpified remake of the capital's July 4 celebration. Local officials had opposed Trump's effort to take over the event and inject himself into the traditionally nonpartisan program.
  • Trump said Prince Charles was "really into climate change" during their meeting Tuesday. "He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate as opposed to a disaster and I agree," Trump told Piers Morgan. But the president's views are unchanged. "I believe that there's a change in weather and I think it changes both ways," he said.
  • Republican and Democratic senators said they would introduce legislation to block Trump’s plan for $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates without congressional review. The senators want the Saudis punished for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The Trump administration is canceling English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for unaccompanied minors staying in federal migrant shelters nationwide, blaming budget pressures, The Washington Post reported.

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