Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine seemingly contradicted the assertion, made by Hillary Clinton's campaign and his own spokesperson, that he would work with the nominee on restoring Medicaid funding for abortion.
Clinton has come out strongly in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans public funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. The current Democratic platform contains the strongest language yet against Hyde.
In an interview with CNN Friday, Kaine said, "I have been for the Hyde Amendment. I haven't changed my position on that." He then repeated it: "I have not changed my position. Have not changed my position on that."
Since he joined the Democratic ticket, campaign staff have assured reporters Kaine would support Clinton's position on Hyde. "He has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman's right to choose, to repeal the Hyde Amendment," they said, and Kaine's spokesperson reiterated that position two days later.
Friday marked the first time Kaine himself had commented on Hyde since joining the ticket. Some abortion rights supporters have been nervous about Kaine's record, which includes solid pro-choice votes in the Senate and a more mixed record as Virginia's governor. The claims that Kaine would work with Clinton on their most reviled policy seemed designed to assuage those fears.
"As Tim Kaine has said, while he supports the Hyde Amendment, he has also made it clear that he is fully committed to Hillary Clinton's policy agenda, which he understands includes repeal of Hyde," said Kaine spokesperson Karen Finney in a statement to NBC News on Friday.
NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue, whose organization endorsed Clinton early on, had strong words for Kaine in a statement Friday afternoon. Citing Clinton's support for repealing Hyde, Hogue said, "This is why Sen. Kaine's statement earlier today that he opposes repealing the discriminatory Hyde amendment was deeply disappointing." She called the Hyde repeal "a top priority for NARAL," and added, "We appreciate Sen. Kaine's commitment to upholding the nominee's position on this important issue, and we sincerely hope that he will continue to educate himself on what Hyde means to the most vulnerable women in this country and join us in fighting this injustice."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards also pushed back at Kaine's stance, though in milder terms. "Planned Parenthood Action Fund will redouble efforts to educate Sen. Kaine on the dangerous impact Hyde has on women with public insurance coverage," she said, adding, "While we strongly disagree with Senator Kaine on this point, there are many places where we do agree." Kaine, she said, "stands in stark contrast to Mike Pence and Donald Trump."
Clinton has long opposed the funding ban, which has been in place since 1976 and was upheld by the Supreme Court four years later. "Let’s repeal laws like the Hyde Amendment that make it nearly impossible, make it nearly impossible for low-income women, disproportionately women of color, to exercise their full reproductive rights," she said in a speech to Planned Parenthood.
The National Right to Life Committee has cheered numbers showing that one in four women on Medicaid who wanted abortions ended up not having them because of lack of funds, calling Hyde "the greatest domestic abortion reduction law ever enacted by Congress."
"[Kaine] shares the concern that low income women and women of color too often face barriers to health care, and for this reason he has been a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and other programs and services that ensure the full range of reproductive health care services for all women," Finney added in her statement. "These values are also made clear in the Democratic Party Platform."
More than one in 10 American women are insured under Medicaid. A University of California at San Francisco study of women across the country found that patients who lacked coverage for abortions typically paid $575 out of pocket. For more than half of those women, that constituted a third or more of their monthly pay.