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Vice President Joe Biden blasted on abortion, contraception mandate

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2012 5:22 p.m. MDT

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in La Crosse, Wis., Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Tom Lynn, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The debate isn't over for Vice President Joe Biden. His own church has chimed in scores of bloggers and others blasting his comments about abortion and the Obamacare contraception mandate the day after his televised showdown with Republican VP pick Paul Ryan.

Both candidates are practicing Catholics, which brought a palpable tension to the debate when they were asked about their positions on abortion. They also expressed their views on the Affordable Care Act's mandate that requires Catholic schools and hospitals to carry insurance that provides birth control for free.

While Ryan said the mandate was an assault on religious liberty, Biden countered: “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.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Friday stating: "This 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."

The Washington Post Fact Checker agreed "Biden went a bit far saying it is a fact that they will not pay for contraceptives."

The bishops have campaigned heavily during the election season against the contraception mandate, and indirectly against the re-election of President Barrack Obama. But the Catholic vote remains split with less than a month to go before Election Day.

While the bishops had nothing to say about either candidate's stand on abortion, others certainly did.

Both candidates agreed with the Catholic Church’s fundamental position that abortion is the taking of a human life. But then they parted along political party lines.

Ryan took a position he has previously spoken against by making exceptions to banning abortion in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. That's the position of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Biden said he wouldn't impose his beliefs on the public and he supports a woman's right to choose.

"He is implicitly acknowledging his belief that those children are in fact human beings, and then giving tacit approval for them to be legally dismembered," wrote Peter Heck on American Thinker. "The vice president of the United States just made a moral case for murder. Shocking."

That's just one example of about a dozen angry criticisms appearing online Friday of Biden's position.

But Mathew N. Schmalz, a professor and director of the College Honors Program at the College of the Holy Cross, tried to bring a dose of reality to the debate by writing in the Washington Post that both candidates were simply "doing Catholicism — American style."

"In articulating their positions, both candidates were accommodating political reality in contemporary America," Schmalz wrote.

He complimented moderator Martha Raddatz for asking the candidates to put their answer in the context of their religious identity. But Schmalz would have liked to have also heard them reflect on how Catholicism has not just informed them but challenged them as public servants and individuals.

"While being Catholic inevitably requires accommodation to one’s own political context, being Catholic can also provide a way to envision possibilities that are not limited by our own social and cultural location," Schmalz wrote. "I recognized Joe Biden and Paul Ryan as fellow American Catholics. As their debate concluded, I wondered whether they had struggled with American-style Catholicism as much as I and many other Catholics continue to do."

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