Palin and Biden on Abortion

Science, technology, and life.
Oct. 1 2008 7:30 AM

Palin and Biden on Abortion

Tomorrow night, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will meet in their only vice-presidential debate . Most of the discussion will be about economics and foreign policy. On the social issues, here are two questions moderator Gwen Ifill should ask.

1. Gov. Palin, you were asked this week whether it should be illegal for a girl to get an abortion in the case of rape or incest. Your answer was that the girl herself should not go to jail. What about the doctor? Should the doctor who performs that abortion face criminal penalties?

2. Sen. Biden, you said four weeks ago that you believe life begins at conception but that you can't impose your personal beliefs on other people. Yet you also voted for a law against gay marriage called the Defense of Marriage Act, and two years ago, you said this law expresses your view that "marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that." Why is it OK to impose your beliefs on gay marriage but not on abortion?

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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Here's all the background information Ifill will need when the candidates start fudging.

Palin's interview with Katie Couric, aired yesterday :

Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?
Palin : I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic about my position there on pro-life. And I understand good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion and when it should be allowed. So ... I respect people's opinion on this. ...
Couric : But, ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?
Palin : I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an ... abortion, absolutely not.

Biden on Meet the Press , Sept. 7, 2008 :

Biden: I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. ...
Tom Brokaw: But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you've also voted for abortion rights.
Biden: No, what [I] voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception.

Biden's recorded vote for DOMA, Sept. 10, 1996 .

Biden on Meet the Press , June 4, 2006 :

We already have a law, the Defense of Marriage Act. We've all voted—not, where I've voted, and others have said, look, marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that. Nobody's violated that law, there's been no challenge to that law.

Biden on CNN, June 5, 2006 :

We have already passed a law saying that—and the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage between a man and a woman.

The Biden campaign's evasive response to a same-sex marriage question on the Human Rights Campaign's 2007 survey of presidential candidates:

Senator Biden supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and how to define marriage. He believes that legal recognition should not be denied to same-sex couples.

Bonus peg: Biden will speak at HRC's annual dinner Saturday night .

All yours, Gwen. Go for it.

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