Near the end of Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate (full transcript here) between Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s running mates, Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democrat Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the issue of abortion came up as moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News asked both candidates to “express in detail a time that you have struggled to balance your personal faith and the public policy decision.”
Kaine answered by stating he is “very devout” in his Catholic faith, while he maintained that “I don’t believe in this nation, a First Amendment nation, where we don’t raise any religion over the other, that the doctrines of any one religion should be mandated for everyone.” He went on to cite capital punishment as an area where he struggled to reconcile his church’s teachings with his duty as governor.
Pence answered by talking about the importance of his Christian faith, then segued into a defense of the sanctity of life, including a reference to how Kaine had been a former pro-life politician who reversed and became “very strongly” pro-abortion as he ascended the Democrat Party ranks:
I would tell you for the sanctity of life proceeds out of that ancient principle of God. I tried to stand for the ancient principle of the sanctity of life. I am also very pleased that Indiana became the most-adoption state. But what I can’t understand is Hillary Clinton — how she can support a process like partial-birth abortion.
I know you hold pro-life views personally. At the very idea that a child almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them, I cannot in conscience [understand] a party that supports that. I know you have historically opposed taxpayer funding for abortion, but Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the long-standing provision when we said we would not use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.
Pence holds a 100 percent pro-life record with the National Right to Life Committee and 0 percent scores with Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and this year as governor signed Indiana’s law banning abortions for genetic abnormalities, race, or sex; requiring ultrasounds before abortions and hospital admitting privileges for abortionists; and mandating that aborted babies be either buried or cremated by abortion facilities.
During the debate, Kaine noted that he and Hillary Clinton both support Roe v. Wade.
Hillary and I are both from religious backgrounds. Her Methodist church experience was very informative for her as a public servant. But we both feel you should live fully and with enthusiasm for your faith. But, let’s talk about abortion and choice. We support Roe v. Wade.
We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy. That is something we trust American women to do. And we don’t think that women should be punished, as Donald Trump they showed, for making the decision to have an abortion. Governor Pence wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. He says he wants to put it on the trash heap of history. Before Roe v. Wade, states could punish women if they made the choice to abort a pregnancy.
Pence did indeed vow to help end overturn Roe. The allegation about punishing women for abortions was a reference to comments Trump made in March expressing openness to “some form of punishment” for abortion in an interview, though he stressed “I don’t know” what form it would be. Later the same day, Trump released a statement clarifying that he meant “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.” Pence reiterated that he would oppose punishing women, as well.
Unfortunately, Pence’s response failed to note the most significant reason why Kaine’s talk of abortion being a “faith” issue was invalid: it being an irrefutable biological fact, not just a religious belief, that a living human being exists from conception onward. But he did conclude on a high note, with a passionate plea to respect the sanctity of life:
We can come together as a nation. We know we are better for it. Like Mother Teresa said at a famous prayer breakfast. There’s so many families around the country who cannot have children. If we can improve so people who cannot have children can. We can encourage people to support women […] Society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable. The aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.
May all of our elected leaders, regardless of party affiliation or other pressures, likewise embrace the sanctity of life for all.