POLITICS
09/30/2015 09:08 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2015

Freshman Sen. Joe Biden Didn't Like Roe v. Wade In 1974

"I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body."
Perhaps the vice president has evolved on reproductive rights?
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Perhaps the vice president has evolved on reproductive rights?

WASHINGTON -- As a freshman senator, Joe Biden gave an extended interview for a Washingtonian magazine profile in which he told writer Kitty Kelley that he was not entirely on board with Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that had legalized abortion nationwide the previous year.

"When it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I'm about as liberal as your grandmother. I don't like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body," Biden said in the June 1974 article.

Today, Biden is a staunch supporter of abortion rights. The Huffington Post reached out to the vice president's office to ask when he evolved on the issue and what made him change his mind. A spokeswoman said that there'd been no evolution and that Biden's comments were taken out of context.

"As with much of this article, then-Senator Biden was taken out of context. The Vice President is and has been a long-time supporter of a woman's right to choose," the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

During that portion of the interview, the 31-year-old senator was talking broadly about how he does not hold doctrinaire positions, which might have angered the once-powerful liberal group Americans for Democratic Action.

"I don't care how that damn Americans for Democratic Action rates me," he said. "Those ADA ratings get us into so much trouble that a lot of us sit around thinking up ways to vote conservative just so we don't come out with a liberal rating. When it comes to civil rights and civil liberties, I'm a liberal but that's it. I'm really quite conservative on most other issues. My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known. I'm a screaming liberal when it comes to senior citizens because I really think they are getting screwed. I'm a liberal on health care because I believe it is a birth right of every human being -- not just some damn privilege to be meted out to a few people. But when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I'm about as liberal as your grandmother. I don't like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body. I support a limited amnesty, and I don't think marijuana should be legalized. Now, if you still think I'm a liberal, let me tell you that I support the draft. I'm scared to death of a professional army. I vote my own way and it is not always with the Democrats. I did vote for George McGovern, of course, but I would have voted for Mickey Mouse against Richard Nixon. I despise that man."

Elsewhere, Biden noted that "someone like Adlai Stevenson" -- a twice-failed Democratic presidential candidate and onetime darling of liberal intellectuals -- "is a good man but he's much more liberal than I am."

In the years after he spoke with Kitty Kelley, Biden became a champion of the Violence Against Women Act, burnishing his liberal credentials with that 1994 law. He lost points with progressives over his treatment of witness Anita Hill during the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

He also lived up to his promise to take not-so-liberal positions as a leader in ratcheting up the drug war, pushing mass incarceration with the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, and seeking to deregulate Wall Street and boost credit card companies domiciled in his home state of Delaware.

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