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Vice Presidential Nominees Clash Over Abortion, Contraception in Debate

Vice Presidential Nominees Clash Over Abortion, Contraception in Debate

October 12, 2012 — In a debate on Thursday, Vice President Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) offered sharply contrasting answers when asked how their Catholic faith influences their views on abortion, the New York Times reports (Zeleny/Rutenberg, New York Times, 10/11).

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz urged Biden and Ryan to "talk personally" about the issue (Hennessey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/11).

Ryan said that he is "pro-life" not only because of his Catholic faith but "also because of reason and science" (Charles, Reuters, 10/12).

Ryan continued that he believes life begins at conception, adding, "I understand this is a difficult … issue, and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."

Biden said that as a Catholic, he also personally believes that life begins at conception but that he does not believe in imposing his personal beliefs on others (Bassett, Huffington Post, 10/11).

"I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews," Biden said, adding, "I do not believe we have the right to tell women that they can't control their body" (New York Times, 10/11).

Biden also pointed out that Ryan has taken a different position in the past. "I guess he accepts [Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that in the case of rape or incest ... it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion."

Contraceptive Coverage

Ryan said the contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) are "infringing upon" the religious freedom of employers and insurers. Alluding to the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the requirements, Ryan said, "Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain religious liberties."

Biden responded, "No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, ... none has to either refer [for] contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide" (Huffington Post, 10/11).

Role of the Courts

Ryan did not directly respond when Raddatz asked whether abortion-rights supporters should be "worried" under a Romney administration. The question prompted a debate over the future of Roe v. Wade if the next president appoints new justices to the Supreme Court.

Ryan said, "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision, (but) that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination."

Biden said Romney would be likely to nominate Supreme Court justices whose positions would threaten Roe ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/11). "The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees, that's how close Roe v. Wade is," he said (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/11).