WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), has led the GOP’s war on abortion rights and Planned Parenthood throughout his career. But it was Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) who shined on the issue in the vice presidential debate Tuesday night, making a strong case for women’s moral autonomy.
“We can encourage people to support life, of course we can,” said Kaine, a practicing Catholic. “But 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. But on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.”
While Kaine has personally struggled with the issue of abortion in the past because of his faith, he and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton both strongly support the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to seek abortion up until the time the fetus would be viable outside the womb. Kaine attacked Trump on Tuesday night for saying women should face “some form of punishment” for having an abortion.
“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,” Kaine said. “And we don’t think that women should be punished, as Donald Trump thinks they should, for making the decision to have an abortion.”
Pence replied that Trump misspoke about abortion because “he is not a polished politician.” He said their GOP presidential ticket “would never support legislation that would punish women who made the heartbreaking choice.”
His record suggests otherwise. As a congressman, Pence once co-sponsored a bill that would force women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion and hear a detailed description of the fetus, regardless of whether the procedure is medically necessary. As governor, he signed a bill that would require doctors to offer women the “remains” of the fetus after an abortion, which serves no apparent purpose other than to humiliate them.
Pence criticized Clinton Tuesday night for wanting to end the Hyde amendment, a long-standing policy that prevents Medicaid from covering abortion care for low-income women. And he accused her of supporting partial-birth abortion ― a late-term procedure that Clinton has said she would support only in cases where the woman’s life or health is in danger.
Pence said his anti-abortion views are central to his platform.
“A society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn,” Pence said. “I believe it with all my heart, and I could not be more proud to be standing with a pro-life candidate in Donald Trump.”
Kaine argued that “you should live your moral values, but the last thing governments should do is to have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices.”
“That is the fundamental difference between the Clinton-Kaine ticket and the Trump-Pence ticket,” he said.