One of the more fascinating and telling moments from last night’s vice-presidential debate unfolded when moderator Martha Raddatz asked Joe Biden and Paul Ryan to speak about their personal faith and how it has impacted their stances on abortion.
“I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion,” she told the candidates. “Please talk about how you came to that decision — talk about how your religion played a part in that.”
Ryan was the first to respond, highlighting his devout faith and claiming that he doesn’t believe it feasible for an individual to separate his or her faith from one’s views on an issue like abortion.
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do,” Ryan proclaimed.
The Republican candidate went on to say that it isn’t only his Catholic faith that informs his pro-life views. Additionally, he explained that “reason and science” also have led him to reject pro-choice sentiment. Complying with Raddatz’s call for getting personal, Ryan talked about seeing his unborn child on a sonogram at just seven weeks and recognizing her heartbeat — an experience that truly resonated with him, coloring his views on the subject.
He also spoke out against the Obama administration’s controversial contraceptive mandate, claiming that the federal government is hampering churches’ right to worship and operate as they see fit.
“They’re infringing upon our first freedom — the freedom of religion,” Ryan said of the Obama administration. “Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties.”
Biden responded with agreement — at least theologically — that life begins at conception. He also spent some time speaking about the duty to help the poor that he believes to be rooted in his religious adherence.
“My religion defines who I am and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. It has particularly informed my social doctrine,” he explained, going on to say that the church has impacted his views on social justice.
However, he painted a starkly different picture from Ryan when it comes to policy, claiming that he refuses to force his abortion views upon others. The decision to abort a child, Biden maintained, should be between a woman and her doctor.
“I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here,” Biden told Raddatz and the audience. “I do not believe we have a right to tell women that they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.”
Watch this portion of the debate, below: