Thursday nights Vice Presidential debate between current VP Joe Biden and GOP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan contained topics from domestic issues and foreign affairs. Toward the end of the night debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked, since both men are of the Catholic faith, about abortion. Each man’s answer drew a sharp contrast on the relationship between faith and public policy. I thought Vice President Biden had the correct view.
This is from a transcript hosted by the website Plunderbund but I did view the debate and vouch for the text in this transcript:
RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.
Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…
RADDATZ: … please talk personally about this, if you could.
RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.
RYAN: 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.
You know, 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. 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.
That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now 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 abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.
Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties. And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn’t second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme.
RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
But 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 — the congressman. I — 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. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let 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. That is a fact.
That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the — we differ, my friend says that he — well I guess he accepts Governor Romney’s position now, because in the past he has argued that there was — there’s rape and forcible rape. 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.
RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.
RYAN: All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Now, I’ve got to take issue with the Catholic church and religious liberty.
BIDEN: You have on the issue…
RYAN: … why would they keep — why would they keep suing you? It’s a distinction without a difference.
RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
RYAN: 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.
BIDEN: The court — the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That’s how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself, with Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for — for Mr. Romney, who do you think he’s likely to appoint? Do you think he’s likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw (inaudible) — outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.
I guarantee you, that will not happen. We picked two people. We pick people who are open-minded. They’ve been good justices. So keep an eye on the Supreme Court…
RYAN: Was there a litmus test on them?
BIDEN: There was no litmus test. We picked people who had an open mind; did not come with an agenda.
I agree with Rep. Ryan when he said “faith informs us in everything we do” but VP Biden offers the correct way a politician should operate when it comes to their public service and their private faith – especially when it comes to something like abortion:
But 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 — the congressman. I — 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.
Rep. Ryan stepped in it when he also said that elected representatives should make those decisions (about abortion) not judges.
As someone on twitter put it
The other thing that bothered me about Rep. Ryan’s response was he was very concerned about the “take[ing] care of the vulnerable” but limited it to the fetus while Biden included all people who may be vulnerable.
It is common practice of authoritarian religions like Catholicism to want to control women but nothing I’ve ever seen or heard about Catholicism says anything about letting the most vulnerable suffer because you don’t want to spend any money to help them.
The other thing to point out is that the rule requiring employers to provide coverage for birth control doesn’t apply to the Catholic Church itself – or any churches. Also “Obamacare” doesn’t cover abortions.
I think Joe Biden’s answer to the abortion question was more in line with American values of freedom of religion – you are free to believe but you aren’t free to force your beliefs on others – especially through the force of law.