Tim Kaine Hasn't "Evolved" On Abortion The Way Hillary Clinton Would Have Hoped

During Tuesday night's vice presidential debate, there were many moments when, from a pure speech and rhetoric perspective, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine paled in comparison to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, seeming to bluster and flail or dole out rehearsed lines. However, when it came to abortion and reproductive rights, Kaine seemed to find a steady voice. "On fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions,” Kaine responded after Pence attacked his and the Democratic Party's pro-choice stance. But while he earned much-deserved applause from reproductive rights advocates for this, Kaine's Hyde Amendment support must not be forgotten.

The Hyde Amendment is a 40-year-old provision which restricts federal funding for abortions, and has been "consistently attached to bills funding the Department of Health and Human Services," as Emma Green noted in an article for The Atlantic. According to Planned Parenthood, one of the Hyde Amendment's prime detrimental effects is that Medicaid cannot cover abortions, even when a doctor recommends the procedure and a woman's health is in jeopardy. "The Hyde Amendment is a dangerous and unfair policy that lets politicians interfere in a woman’s personal health care decisions," Planned Parenthood noted. And yet Kaine has steadfastly stood by his support for the Hyde Amendment.

During an interview on CNN's State of the Union this past July, Kaine reiterated his longstanding support for Hyde, even though it contradicted his running mate's vow to repeal it. "On Hyde, my position is the same. I support the Hyde Amendment. I haven't changed that," Kaine said. However, he did note, "But as a vice president, I had to get comfortable with the notion that I can have my personal views, but I'm going to support the president of the United States, and I will."

Kaine's Hyde Amendment support is just one example of a checkered past on supporting pro-choice policies. During his 2005 run for governor of Virginia, Kaine vowed to fight "teen pregnancy through abstinence-focused education" and promote "adoption as an alternative for women facing unwanted pregnancies." Perhaps most irksome to Democratic voters is Kaine stated his commitment to:

Enforcing the current Virginia restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother

Granted, Kaine's views on abortion and reproductive rights have changed quite a bit since his days running for governor of Virginia. As William McGurn noted (not favorably) in The Wall Street Journal, once Kaine entered the Senate, "he opposed limits he once supported as governor, fighting efforts to cut off tax dollars for Planned Parenthood, voting against a 20-week abortion ban, and co-sponsoring legislation aimed at nullifying state laws limiting abortion."

On abortion, Kaine may have "evolved," as so many politicians do on social issues when the pendulum swings in support of the rights they once opposed (take a look at Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's record on same-sex marriage). Of course, it is almost always better to "evolve" than dig in one's heels in close-minded stubbornness. However, before we rush to call politicians' champions of this or that movement, it's critical to have a comprehensive understanding of their views and record. It's how we will remind ourselves not to settle with what we demand from politicians and accept a partial "evolution."