By Dave Andrusko
Abortion did not come up in the first presidential debate between pro-abortion President Barack Obama and pro-life Mitt Romney last week. Thursday night, at the one and only vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz made sure it did.
Pro-Life Rep. Paul Ryan’s responses were strong, weaving together principle, personal experience, and the perils of ObamaCare. Pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden embraced the “personally opposed” position and (falsely) denied that ObamaCare poses a threat to religious freedom.
Raddatz framed the question this way:
“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. Please talk personally about this if you could.”
The implication clearly is that Ryan opposes abortion because he is a Catholic, as if that is only the basis on which he could have arrived at that position. Ryan’s thoughtful response was (as requested) indeed personal but he also made it clear that he—or anybody else—can oppose abortion for other reasons as well. That is important because Biden ends up recycling the tired, hackneyed argument that we can’t “impose” our faith on others.
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, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life.
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. Our 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 abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Biden also emphasized the centrality of his faith, saying that he accepts in his “personal life” his church’s “position” on abortion–that “life begins at conception.” But he said he refuses to “impose” it on non-Catholics and that in any event abortion is “a decision between them [women] and their doctor, in my view.”
Biden and Ryan also sparred over the Supreme Court with Biden warning that “the next President will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That’s how close Roe v. Wade is.” He added, “Do you think he’s [Romney] likely to appoint someone like [Justice Antonin] Scalia or someone else on the court, far right, that would outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.”
Ryan said, “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.”
Finally, Ryan made sure the audience knew that among the other dangers ObamaCare posed was the threat to religious freedom.
“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 — religious liberties.”
Biden insisted this was not true, which prompted this on-the-mark response from Ryan: “If they [the Catholic Church] agree with you, then why would they keep suing you? “ Indeed, why would they? (The Catholic Bishops responded to Biden’s answer at “USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS Mandate made during vice presidential debate.”)
There were other important points made. Alluding to the abortion plank adopted at the Democratic National Convention, Ryan said, “And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be ‘safe, legal and rare.’ Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding…”
The common denominator in most accounts of last night’s debate was that the two men had diametrically opposed positions on virtually every issue. That was no more true than in their support for/opposition to abortion.