By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Washington (CNN) – It was the first-ever debate between two Roman Catholics vying for a White House perch, and in Thursday’s face-off between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the question was put plainly: How does your faith shape your position on abortion?
It’s one of the most divisive questions in American politics, and the query from debate moderator Martha Raddatz, asked near the end of the sole vice presidential debate, set the table for some of the night’s most personal and poignant moments.
“I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” said Ryan. “Our faith informs us in everything we do.”
“My religion defines who I am,” said Biden. “I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.”
But the two men took very different tacks on applying their faith to the abortion issue. Ryan said his religion – combined with “reason and science” – led him to oppose legalized abortion, and that “the policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
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Ryan recalled when he and his wife, Janna, saw the ultrasound of their firstborn child, Liza. “We saw that heartbeat – a little baby was in the shape of a bean,” he said, noting that they still called their daughter “Bean” and saying he believes that “life begins at conception.”
“With respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare,” Ryan continued. “Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding … that to me is pretty extreme.”
Biden said he accepted his church’s anti-abortion position – “life begins at conception in the church’s judgment” – but that he refused to impose that view on “equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews.”
“The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees,” Biden said. “That’s how close Roe v. Wade is. … Do you think (Romney is) likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.”
Both men also used the question on abortion and Roman Catholicism to pivot to other issues, with Ryan saying the Obama White House is “infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals” presumably because of a new rule requiring insurers to provide free contraception coverage for virtually all American employees.
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Before answering the abortion question, Biden said his Catholicism has “informed my social doctrine … about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”
The Obama campaign and liberal Catholic groups used the debate to organize Catholic watch parties and to argue that Ryan’s proposed budget in the House of Representative ran counter to Catholic values.
About one in four American voters is Catholic, though there is such a broad range in Catholic political concerns and voting habits that many political experts reject the notion of a cohesive Catholic bloc.
Catholics have voted with the winning presidential candidate in every election since the early 1990s.
Obama camp, liberal groups use VP debate to organize Catholic voters
In 2008, Obama beat John McCain among Catholics by 54% to 45%. In 2004, John Kerry – the first Catholic nominee for president since John F. Kennedy – lost the Catholic vote to George W. Bush, provoking Democrats to take Catholic outreach more seriously.
Both major parties had America’s highest-profile Catholic cleric, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, give the closing prayer at their recent political conventions.
Every egg is sacred.
Life begins at ovulation.
Women should be ashamed of themselves for menstruating.
@DOC: ROFLMFAO! XD
Does life begin at conception? yes.
Is abortion the taking of a life? yes.
Should the government or anyone else be able to force a woman to bear a child,even if she is already pregnant? No.
I would argue that life begins before conception. Ovum and sperm are living things.
So, Pat, do you think the government should force me to pay for abortions thereby making me a party to other's sins?
Your right, arent you better off paying for that child for the rest of his life through welfare, the crimminal justice system and then as a guest of the state. glad your looking at the big picture.
@carol – I don't want the government to force me to pay for executions. Are you ok with that?
The Catholic Church needs to get over the abortion issue. Abortion is a non-issue in Europe. Italy has legalized abortions since 1978. Catholic France, Spain and Belgium all have legal abortion laws. Obviosuly the Pope and past Popes have had no say on the issue. A fetus is not a life yet. There is no brain and thinking going on and even there was a women may need an abortion in certain cases for her safety and life. The Catholic Church needs to worry about the poor, doing charity, and making sure people live healthy, safe, and respectful lives. The Church doesn't even support birth control which has nothing to do with abortion. As a born and raised Catholic the church needs to get into the modern day world and stop worrying about its so-called power and control. Get back to doing charity work.
Mr. "born and raised Catholic" – you need to read Humanae Vitae if you think the church has said nothing about abortion or birth control. The Catholic church is the single largest charity organization in the world, they never stopped their work in that regard due to political distractions of legalized child murder in the womb. Also, birth control and abortion are intimately related. Planned Parenthood pushes weak birth control on young teens who come back later as "unexpected" crisis pregnancy abortion customers. You sir need to enlighten your view, you are an embarrassment to this born and raised Catholic. Please open your heart, ears, and eyes to the teaching of the church and not the T.V.
@MarioD: "Planned Parenthood pushes weak birth control on young teens." What does that even MEAN? So that they can create volume for downstream services like abortion? You are out of your mind. I guess having the Catholic church block distribution of condoms in Africa or priests diddling young boys and girls are more honorable actions?
Birth control pills don't prevent pregnancy. They prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the lining of the uterus so it is a form of abortion even though the mother may never know she has conceived. Please don't allow the government to make me a party to paying for others abortions. Human life is sacred, from its beginning to its end,
no matter what form it is in.
There is a Power motive behind things like the Catholic Church staying No to abortion. Prior to our modern society Power came from owning land and from large populations. Even today we see that having more followers gets you Power. All religions set laws intended to increase their Power. For Islam it is Jihad and 'convert or die', while Catholics cling to large families.
Republicans use the Church's opposition to abortion to gain greater control over people's lives.
That's it. Morality has nothing to do with the positions taken by these groups. Its simply a way to create more people who they have Power over.
Consider this: If Republicans really cared about children, why do they cut education and fail to support those born into poverty? Because they don't need millions of Nobel Prize winners... they need millions of uneducated, poor masses to believe their 'stuff' and work their factories. If Islam truly wanted converts why does the Koran state that conqured people can keep their religion if they just pay 2x the taxes? They kill apostates because its easier than trying to convert someone who already rejected their faith.
Republicans are all for smaller government except when it comes to controlling women's bodies. They have become the American branch of the Taliban on women's issues.
If something is universally wrong, like murder, theft, slavery, perjury, and abortion, then it does not matter if the majority is in favor of it. It should still be illegal. There are universal truths that are independent of man's opinion.
That is true. Generally speaking, we call them "physics."
Is murder in the name of your country illegal? Then why does the US have a military?
It stealing food for your starving family immoral?
If having an abortion when having the child is dangerous to the mother and/or infant's life a sin?
Questions of morality are seldom black and white, but denying people choice is not the correct way to address them.
For once I'd like to see an election devoid of any candidate's religious beliefs. Too many of the religious take their religiious freedom to include shoving their beliefs down everyones' throats. Perhaps only atheists and agnostics should be allowed to run for office. True separation of church and state, right?
The 1st Amendment doesn't establish a separation of church and state. That is an inversion of the statement of free practice of religion without state established religion. If you want separation of church and state move to China or some other hard-line communist country. In China they cut the unborn from the womb of the mother...that is what you get when the state runs without any religion, forced abortion. Please pack your bags and get out of this country if that is really what you want, why live here?
An atheist would get my vote.
Mariod – So I can live life the opposite of the way your religion teaches – good – 1st amendment.
@ mario: why live here? let's see, i live here because my family lives here. i live here because the government nor anyone else can force me to believe as they do. i live here because i deployed with my fellow americans to defend this great secular nation from attack from religious freaks and as the oath i took on the day i entered " i will defend this nation from all threats foreign AND domestic."
let anyone try to mess with this country and see how quickly we older veterans take a stand and defend EVERYONES right to live free of oppression.
Abortion is not a religious issue. I am an atheist, and I am opposed to murder of anyone, including and especially unborn babies. Abortion is clearly murder because the baby must be killed before it is removed from the mother. If the baby was removed alive, then the doctors are required by law to attempt to save the baby. Go into a pathology lab and watch a murdered fetus be put back together like a puzzle to make sure nothing was left behind in the mother. If abortion is not murder, then why does a doctor cut off the baby's head before removing the baby from the mother? There are also many babies who survive an abortion, often with permanent injuries. Many years ago a woman attempted to abort her 3rd trimester fetus. The doctor did not successfully kill the baby before birth, instead he only cut her arm off. There is a teenage girl in NYC missing an arm because her mother and her mother's doctor tried to murder her in the womb. Saying that this is a religious issue implies that all murders are a religious issue. If you believe in abortion, do you think a mother should be allowed to kill her baby at birth if the baby is born with undiagnosed birth defects? People say that a woman should not be forced to have a baby, but many women force men to become fathers against their will, or kill the baby of the father against his will. All of these babies could be adopted by the millions of people who cannot have a baby, and cannot afford invitro or foreign adoptions.
I find that is a slippery slope. If we acquiesce and allow conception to be the legal start of life, what is to prevent living ovum and sperm from then being identified as life and protected by law, making masturbation illegal or menstruation/ovulation without insemination?
As a society, we accept the taking of life as a part of our mode. This includes legally innocent life.
It is a legal matter. We use our individual morality to make our individual decisions, but morality, like faiths and fingerprints, will be different between any two different people.
Get informed before spewing word vomit for all to see. It's illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion on a baby in it's third trimesters. Abortion is only legal when the fetus is still a zygote and has no chance of surviving outside the womb. I don't know where you got that story, but a) if the fetus did survive an abortion attempt, that means it was illegal to begin with and b) clearly that doctor is incompetent if he can't tell the difference between a head and an arm.
Don't be dumb.
I guess I just don't care what a woman does with her fetus. I really don't.
Because there is never drama with imaginary uberlords and their devotees. Yeah, right.
I do wish people would stop getting so hysterical about this issue, particularly where this presidential race is concerned, or any other legislative race. it's not like the question of abortion is up to these people, anyway. Extremism is any form is just stupid, and some of the comments I've read are so far out there as to be about to go into orbit around the earth. Everyone said if Obama got elected that US citizens would lose their rights to own guns. Hasn't happened. Same thing with this issue. Won't happen. Only weak-minded, easily influenced and ignorant people would believe any of this crap some of you are writing. Honestly, are voters really stupid enough to buy into this drivel? Oh, spare me! I hope they're not!!
I'm sorry you are so misinformed about this issue. The President has the right, unilatererally, to decide whether or not to fund any number of programs, such as health care in Africa. US law already prohibits the use of public funds for abortions, so there are clinics that get funds from the US for such things as TB treatment, AIDS treatment, contraception, basic health care, etc. The same clinics get funding from other sources to provide abortions. Past GOP presidents have halted funding to these clinics. The result is people have died from preventable or treatable diseases. Romney/Ryan has promised to once again halt this funding.
The current Supreme Court will not even hear a challenge to Roe v Wade, but there are 3 justices looking to over turn it. A change in justices could result in a challenge to this case law.
@CosmicC, funding is different from legislatively repealing the right of women to govern their bodies. Personally, I don't want my taxes used to fund anyone's abortion or birth control. It's that pesky personal responsibility thing. I handled mine, let everyone else handle theirs – on their own dime. If the organizations can get funding elsewhere other than my pocket, great. Go for it. A challenge to a Supreme Court ruling is not the same thing as a done deal.
Tim, a group of cells is not a "child", it's a group of cells. You don't like abortion, fine, don't have one....but the second you tell someone else what they can or cannot do with their body, you just took away their rights. Something you have no authority to do.
While you may believe that an unborn baby is no different than a finger nail, most people do not hold that extreme view. Thanks be to God!
Dave, what is the potential of that 'group of cells'?. What will it be if it's allowed to continue to multiply? It can only be one thing – a living, breathing person. And BTW, remember, you are also nothing but a 'group of cells'. So what is the difference between destroying a 5 week old group of cells or a 50 year old group of cells?
RobK = typical of those who assume they speak for everyone, and that everyone holds their view. Stay out of others business, period. That is all I have to know about this.
You are a group of cells. By your logic you are not a living thing. If you are not a living thing you must by logic be an inanimate object. Inanimate objects cannot have a valid opinion. Does this make your opinion invalid?
RonInStLouis – "potential" – there you go, a fetus has potential to become a person with rights but they're not a person with rights at the time of the abortion.
I have a question then a comment. How can a person be charged for murder if they cause the death of an unborn child lets say you caused an auto accident and the driver of the car you hit was pregnant, But it is perfectly legal for that same mother to get an abortion? As a taxpayer I should not have to be forced to pay for an abortion for someone without coverage.
Because the mother in the car didn't go looking for an abortion, the mother looking for an abortion is making a choice. her choice.
Yes Doc but either way the unborn child is still dead. One is legal the other is not, choice or not.
My take is simply this. I'm pro-choice, I think the government has no right to legislate a woman's va.gina. It's astonishing to me that a party who is so anti-big government and wants the government to stay out of their lives has no problem when it comes to one of the most invasive and insidious parts of the government.
However, it really really (two really's so you know I'm serious) irks me when pro-choice men say, "it's a woman's body, she has the final say". That is simply not the case. I believe I have no right or say if a random woman off the street wants to get an abortion of not, but I most certainly should have a say if I'm the one that impregnated a woman and she wants to get an abortion or not. It will effect me also and I think when the pro-choice people ran to protect a womans right to choose, they made a glaring error in ignoring how this would effect men. I'm not saying it's equal. I understand that ultimately it's the woman who will have to carry a child for 9 months and all sorts of physical and fiscal effects, but having the baby (if the woman chooses to not get an abortion) means a lot and equally if a man wants a child and a woman decides not to, it could be devastating.
Tell that to all of the women whose baby daddy's don't pay child support. And do you really think your going to reduce the number of people below the poverty line if you force them to bring unwanted pregnancies to term? Not going to happen.
I don't think you read my post right @RenoGal
I'm not saying men should have the only say, I'm just saying they should have a voice in the conversation. A woman shouldn't be able to have a baby in order to force the father to stay with her or pay child support (it's happened), nor should a woman get an ab.ortion without at least cons.ulting the father first (unless, of course, the pregnancy is a result of r.a.pe or other situations where the iden.ti.ty of the father is unknown).
What I'm trying to say is, when it comes to pregnancy and ab.ortion, the man in the relationship should have a voice. Not the government, or the church or any other commu.nity, just both par.tners. I fight for pro-choice, but pro-choice for both men and women.
Do you think partisanship is like religion? In that people become indoctrinated at a young age and perpetually reinforce the identification despite rationality or uselessness? They seem almost the same in their fervency.
I think that's possible. It's best to stand back and try to be neutral toward any specific party and listen to the issues without freaking out about the constant rhetoric. Informed decisions and fact checking by the average voter seem to be a rare thing these days.
Wonderful point. I expect you to be attacked for "blasphemy" now on this board
"A recently fertilized embryo cannot, nor can it for a few months, so how they can say it's a "person"
Who are you to decide it's not? Furthermore an infant cannot survive without the care of its parents. So is it ok to neglect the infant to the point of malnutrition or death? Using your logic it should be.
And maybe I don't think prisoners on death row are people either. So let's just get rid of them
If they're on death row, aren't we technically getting rid of them? And while I appreciate the comparison of an embryo to an infant, the embryo would die the second it is removed from the womb, an infant would not. Obviously, abandoning an infant isn't right, but that would then actually be murder because that child took a breath outside the womb, something an embryo cannot, nor will it ever be able to do.
Who are you to decide it's not?
Good point lets leave it up to Santa or the Tooth Fairy to decide....aw here is a great idea......leave it up to the mother. A fetus is not an infant. Educate yourself religo tard.
The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions may vary between birth and 3 years of age. A newborn is an infant who is only hours, days, or up to a few weeks old. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth; the term applies to premature infants, postmature infants, and full term infants. Before birth, the term fetus is used.
People are so concerned with the 2nd amendment. How about we pay attention to the first amendment for a change!
I'll second that.
Exactly. So let's stop calling anyone exercising their 1st Amendment right to disagree with Obama a "racist," "terrorist," stupid etc. And tell NOW to stop trying to get Rush Limbaugh off the air
I liked the second amendment back when guns had a firing rate of once per minute. Today, not so much.
There is something seriously wrong with someone if they think it is ok to take the life of an unborn child. That's it – there is no argument against this, EVERYONE deep down knows it is wrong. "Pro-choice" is just a cop-out. If you support this, you are supporting murder. The problem is, human beings have an incredible ability to deceive themselves and convince themselves that evil is good. Barack Obama is OBSESSED with abortion. Not my view, it's fact – check his record on abortion issues. He did something to further the "pro-choice" agenda once a month for the first year he was in office. It's time to stop this.
Equating a bunch of cells that MIGHT develop into a healthy baby with a living, breathing woman of society is an insult to every female on this planet .It's my choice as to whether or not I wish for my body to be used to bring a baby to term. You all act like it's something simple to have your bodyhijacked for 9 months. If you are so concerned about babies go adopt a special needs kid already.
I think it's perfectly OK and in some cases not doing so would be immoral.
There is something seriously wrong with someone if they think it is ok to force a woman to have a child she doesn't want. That's it – there is no argument against this, EVERYONE who is rational knows it is wrong. "Pro-life" is just a cop-out. If you support this, you are supporting slavery. The problem is, human beings have an incredible ability to deceive themselves and convince themselves that evil is good. The extreme right is OBSESSED with abortion. Not my view, it's fact – check their record on abortion issues. They do something to further the "anti-choice" agenda once a month anytime they are in office. It's time to stop this.
@tim: pro-choice means exactly that. i believe that females have the right to choose for themselves what they wish to do with a clump of cells inside their own body.
males dont' have the reproductive organs to support life within themselves, thus we can't dictate what women should do with their bodies.
it would be the equal of women telling men, no master bation or vesectomies because it will ki11 future babies. it's just wrong to act like our brother/sister keeper when it isn't our place to act condicending and pass judgement based on what they decide is correct for them.
well being a male i won't ever have to make that choice and even if me and my wife have to make that choice in the future it will not be made lightly nor without pain of losing a child in our hearts;however if i have to choose between my unborn child or my wife's life, she will win hands down everytime.
i believe in the hypocratic oath " do no further harm" that means if a mother is bleeding out or has another complication regardless of how far along the pregnancy is, they have to attempt to save her life first and foremost, if it is evident or if she demands it (based on the child's development level mind you) then the doctors may make a effort to save the child at the cost of the mother life.
That's exactly the issue though. I understand and respect that you view a fetus as a child, but I do not. A fetus is just that – a fetus. You view the potential life of the fetus as more important than the rights of the woman who has to carry that fetus. I am the opposute. We don't have a standard definition of when life actually occurs (right now the working argument is "viability"). So to say that "pro-choice is a cop out" and "abortion is murder; everyone knows it" simply isn't true. It's not murder to me, not even close. It's just very differing opinions.
I’m pro-choice, but it sounds like you’re in favor of abortions as a form of birth control. I think this stance is deplorable and makes me reconsider my position on the issue. If you don’t want your body to by hijacked for 9 months then don’t allow the hijackers access to your ovum.
Your, wrongly, under the assumption that is somehow your business. No on cares about your religious beliefs, this is America. beleive what you want, just dont impose it on me. You adopt any kids or pay, out of your pocket, to keep an orpahnage open? if not you really need to keep your beliefs to yourself.
Fundamentalist Catholics oppose birth control and abortion. Then their standard bearers like Ryan seek to defund or eliminate universal prenatal and postnatal care, early childhood education, and about every other government program that would help the child become and remain a healthy, productive member of society.
Hey, it's only sacred until they're born. After that, they're on their own, the little welchers.
I get a good laugh watching Joe Bite me perform
All day long Democrats try to tell others how they should behave and think and vote. then they tell us we have no right to do the same.
And stop pretending that Republicans don't do the exact same. At this point you're either obtuse or trolling.
I wish for once religion and personal views were not trying to be shoved down our throats. it is no ones business, especially a mans, to say what a woman can do with her body. i am pro choice, but i do have my limits. for instance, i do not agree with late term abortions but i would never tell someone they cant do it because i think it's wrong. My opinion is simply that, its mine and not for anyone else to agree or disagree with. and how possibly can a life begin after conception it wouldnt be able to survive outside the womb? I think they should define a fetus as a "life" when it can live without having to be in a uterus. A recently fertilized embryo cannot, nor can it for a few months, so how they can say it's a "person"? And furthermore, do they have any proposals to punish men who walk away from their unborn child because they no longer want it? A woman cannot become pregnant all on her own, two people should have to own up to their actions. Some men who abandon their children are able to skip paying child support and don't have any responsibility when it comes to raising it. If men want to say what a woman has to do with her body, then there should be laws set up to protect women from the absent fathers who flee because they just don't feel like raising a child. And lastly, has anyone thought about the over crowded, under funded and under staffed orphanages? I just wonder if abortion is made illegal, how much worse will that situation get. I respect and appreciate everyone's pro life opinions, I just do not agree with changing laws to appease them.
Its my personal view that my right as an American citizen is that I can vote however I want, for any reason I choose and if you don't like it...too bad.
I do not recall saying how you should vote, but thanks for sharing your thoughts that had zero to do with what I wrote. And btw, I did say I respect opinions, but they shouldn't be the reason to take away the choice a woman alone should have.
Pedro's reading skills are lacking, and he seems to be a one trick pony, so don't worry about it.
I agree – I don't support abortion on the whole, but I have no right to tell anyone else what to do with their bodies. It gets old fast watching old conservative guys try and decide when life begins and who gets to regulate it.
So if my hand wants to slap you upside the head, you shouldn't be able to control my body?
Actually robk, I cannot control your actions nor would I try because you can do whatever you want. You know the consequencese of your actions, so it's for you, and ONLY you to make that choice to slap me because you are the only one that will have to live with your decision.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.