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Kaine, Pence Trade Views On Abortion In Vice Presidential Debate


At last night's vice presidential debate, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence talked about one issue that hasn't gotten a lot of attention this year - abortion rights. Pence describes himself as pro-life and has said he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. Kaine has said that he personally opposes abortion but says he supports abortion rights as a matter of policy. And here they are mixing it up in last night's debate.


TIM KAINE: Why doesn't Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves? That's what we ought to be doing in public life - living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing each other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day...

MIKE PENCE: Because they're...

KAINE: ...But on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.

PENCE: Because, Senator - because there is - a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable - the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn. I believe it with all my heart, and I couldn't be more proud to be standing with a pro-life candidate in Donald Trump.

CORNISH: The last voice there - Mike Pence. I spoke about this moment with Emma Green of The Atlantic, and she says it reveals a lot about the current politics of religion and abortion.

EMMA GREEN: Tim Kaine is somewhat split from Hillary Clinton on abortion issues. Both are fully supportive of the right to have abortions, but on one of the key issues in the Democratic platform, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which is the ban on the use of federal funds to pay for certain abortions, Tim Kaine does not support the repeal while Hillary Clinton does.

He said that he's personally opposed to abortion and he respects her right to have the repeal of Hyde in her platform, but the two of them have a little bit of daylight in terms of the way they talk about abortion as a public policy and a personal morality issue.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, Mike Pence - how does his policy compare with what we've heard from Donald Trump?

GREEN: Mike Pence offered something of a corrective to the way Donald Trump has talked about abortion in the past. He's committed some pretty significant gaffes. Most significantly earlier this year, he suggested that women should potentially be punished for seeking out abortions. Mike Pence, however, last night basically echoed the way that a typical pro-life conservative Republican politician would talk about these issues.

CORNISH: You know, prior to this campaign, both candidates have talked about their faith in relation to policy issues in their home state. How have they navigated kind of religious values in public office?

GREEN: I think these two men above all show how difficult it can be for politicians to reconcile their faith with certain issues that they face. Mike Pence faced a controversy last year when he supported Indiana's proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some opponents said would give business owners the right to discriminate against LGBT people. On the one hand, Mike Pence had to stand up for religious freedom. It's something that he has cherished and says he values deeply. But on the other, he was trying to comfort business owners who were potentially considering leaving the state.

Tim Kaine has struggled with the death penalty. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty, and he has said he is personally opposed to it as well. But while he was the governor of Virginia, he oversaw 11 executions. And ultimately he said he believed that the citizens of a state are the ones who have to determine public policy, and his personal morality can't take over the law.

CORNISH: But whether it's abortion rights or the death penalty, we aren't really hearing about these kind of hot-button issues that really used to be spoken about in the context of faith. And why do you think that is?

GREEN: I think from the conservative perspective, Donald Trump doesn't have as much of a religious right or traditionally religious conservative profile certainly compared to George W. Bush or Mitt Romney. And on a lot of hot button issues that are important to religious conservatives, he's basically flouted the typical party line. Hillary Clinton is very focused on the economic issues that are relevant to the social gospel, poverty-style issues or other things like immigration reform or national security.

CORNISH: That's Emma Green. She writes about religion and politics for The Atlantic. Thanks so much.

GREEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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