NRL News

Round Two: Ryan and Biden on Abortion

by | Oct 15, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-life Paul Ryan and Pro-abortion Joe Biden

I’m guessing it’s a combination of tit for tat and anticipation of Tuesday’s second presidential debate that has spurred another round of back and forth over last week’s vice presidential debate. For reasons that escape me (were it not for the fact that is three weeks until the election), there is now a second round of argument from supporters of Vice President Joe Biden that he “won” the debate.

The notion that Biden would “energize” the troops by being as rude as is humanly possible and trying to drown out Mr. Ryan is preposterous on its face for reasons we’ve already discussed (see Indeed, if it were true, wouldn’t you say that it would reflect badly on Democrats?

But because the latest round of “Joe won!” doubles down the exchange on abortion, it’s very much worth a second look (see

We’re told by a blogger for the Washington Post that “Paul Ryan’s abortion response reflects the Achilles’ Heel of the GOP.” So how does Rahiel Tesfamariam arrive at that conclusion? Reader alert: the ladder of her logic is missing a few rungs.

First we’re told

“Biden emphatically stated his desire to not stand between a woman and her doctor when making life-altering decisions about her body. Ryan, on the other hand, said he can’t ‘see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or their faith.’

“This statement speaks not only to who he is as a policy maker but reflects on a large majority of the Republican Party as a whole. Time and time again, Republican politicians have displayed an inability to separate their personal religious convictions from policies affecting millions of Americans.”

And her point? That if legislation affects “millions of Americans,” politicians—Republicans or otherwise—ought to excise their personal religious convictions? Really? The whole thrust of “Catholics for Obama” is that while they disagree with Ryan’s understanding of the imperatives of his own Catholic faith, the last thing they would expect is that he would place his religious convictions on hold.

Indeed,  later in the same blog entry, she writes that “Ryan rightly stated that politicians can’t compartmentalize their identities as easily as we would want them to” only to hammer him for not coming down on the correct side of “social responsibility.” But would Tesfamariam bring that same test to other issues if, in exercising their faith, the Republican’s conclusion coincided with her political persuasion? Of course not.

I was amused the other day when a Washington Post columnist derided Rep. Ryan for saying that his opposition to abortion included his faith but was not limited to his Catholicity. He listed “reason and science” as well.

Lisa Miller, who for some reason runs the “Belief Watch” for the Post reduces this to a “well-rehearsed argument in anti-abortion circles.”

Perhaps it is “well-rehearsed” because it (a) true and (b) therefore—when given a fair chance to be heard—effective.

But the best part of Miller’s rap across the knuckles was for Ryan daring to talk about the Obama mandate. “Ryan then endeavored to inflame his base by raising the specter of a government-sponsored health-care plan that tramples religious liberties by insisting that Catholic institutions provide contraception despite their religious principles,” she huffed.

But Miller was merely channeling Biden’s blatant falsehood in response to Ryan. He said, “With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

But, of course, like so much of what Biden says, this was not “fact” but an attempt to bluster his way past the truth of what Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires. Here’s what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement the next day:

“It is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.” (See ).

One other quick but important supplemental point. George Weigel wrote a delightful piece in which he which he observed how “in the space of a few sentences, Biden managed to make four errors that ought to have registered on any serious observer’s Gaffe-O-Meter.”

For our purposes here, the first example is the most relevant: “ He misrepresented the opposition to abortion mounted by popes and bishops (which is based on biology and philosophy, not specifically on Catholic theology or ‘sectarian’ premises).” That, of course, is what makes the Catholic case accessible to non-Catholics.

So the only people Ryan “inflamed” were those willing to think.

Abortion will come up as an issue, probably tomorrow night, and probably again in the third debate. I have no doubt that President Obama’s answers will be every bit as evasive as were the Vice President’s.

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Categories: Politics