Vice President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Paul Ryan expounded on their views pertaining to abortion at last night’s vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News served as moderator, and in noting that both candidates are Roman Catholic, asked how their faith influences their beliefs about abortion.
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” Ryan stated. “Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.”
“My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine,” Biden explained. “The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”
Both candidates agreed that life begins at conception.
“I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville – where I was born – for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat,” Ryan outlined. “A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, ‘Bean.’ Now I believe that life begins at conception.”
“Life begins at conception in the Church’s judgment,” Biden concurred. “I accept it in my personal life.”
Biden stated, however, that he did not want to force his views on others.
“I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman,” he said. “I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that.”
Biden remarked that it appeared to him that Ryan has now sided with Romney in permitting abortion in instances of rape.
“I guess he accepts Governor Romney’s position now, because in the past … [he]’s argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still — it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend,” he said.
Ryan agreed that the ticket was supporting the exception.
“The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” he replied.
Ryan stated that he was concerned that Obamacare forces religious groups to provide contraception coverage for their employees. Biden contended that Obamacare has a proviso that excludes religious groups from the requirement.
“[L]et me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide,” he stated. “That is a fact.”
Biden opined that the upcoming election was important because he was concerned about who would be appointed to the Supreme Court.
“[T]he next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That’s how close Roe v. Wade is,” he said. “We pick people who are open-minded. They’ve been good justices. So keep an eye on the Supreme Court.”
Ryan stated that he believed that abortion is not an issue for the courts, but for the legislature.
“We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination,” he explained.
However, in a CBS interview with Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate outlined that he did not believe that the issue of abortion should be decided by legislation, but rather the courts.
“Recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court,” Romney said. “The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts.”
Some also note that Roe v. Wade was passed by a Republican majority — five Republican and two Democrat justices in favor — with the opinion being authored by Nixon appointee Harry Blackmun.
The debate was the sole vice presidential debate that will take place before the election.
The next debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take place on October 16th at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York.