If the topics of abortion and religious liberty come up at Tuesday night's town-hall debate, it is likely both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will be ready.
Neither man could have missed the passionate reactions — pro and con — that were unleashed by just five minutes on abortion in Thursday's vice presidential debate.
Both Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Republican candidate Rep. Paul Ryan were asked by moderator Martha Raddatz to speak, as practicing Catholics, about the role "your religion has played in your own personal views of abortion."
Mr. Biden said he accepted his church's position on abortion, including life beginning at conception, but would "refuse to impose" those beliefs on others. He then questioned the "assault" on religious liberties, saying it was "absolutely clear" that "no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise," has to pay for contraception, "refer" for contraception or "be a vehicle to get contraception" under the new health care law.
Mr. Ryan rebutted that, saying that if Catholic and religious institutions "agree with you, then why would they keep suing you?"
Mr. Ryan also said — after stating that life begins at conception — that the Romney administration would "oppose abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."
When asked by Ms. Raddatz whether abortion-rights supporters should "be worried" if his ticket is elected, Mr. Ryan replied that "unelected judges" shouldn't make abortion decisions. Instead, people should decide "through their elected representatives" and by "reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process."
These answers show why the Republican ticket "is "extremely dangerous to women's health," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice, said after the debate.
Abortion is "going to be a voting issue in the election," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told MSNBC.
"I'm glad it's finally out in the open" that the Republican ticket thinks that government should be making the most private, personal decisions for women, said Ms. Richards. The Republicans "aren't going to take women back four years; they're going to take women back 40 years."
In contrast, pro-life leaders praised Mr. Ryan for his clarity and candor.
"Paul Ryan beautifully articulated core Catholic teaching on the right to life, as he spoke of seeing the heartbeat of his unborn daughter at 7 weeks, and the Obama administration's assault on religious liberty," said Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association.
"The Romney-Ryan ticket is clearly committed to protecting American women and unborn children — as well as our conscience rights and religious freedom," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
Both women fiercely rejected Mr. Biden's explanation that the federal government won't force religious institutions to include contraception, including abortifacients, in their employees' health care plans.
Mr. Biden "grossly misled the viewers and brushed over legitimate objections by people of all faiths to this administration's unprecedented assault on religious organizations and individuals," said Ms. Dannenfelser. "He was shockingly deceptive and factually incorrect, which is why the Obama administration is being sued by Catholic charities, hospitals and educational institutions like Notre Dame," Ms. Ferguson said.
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