One of the many execrable things Joe Biden said in the debate last night was when the debate turned to Abortion. Paul Ryan made the distinction between Principle and Policy, and said that, as a matter of policy, the Romney/Ryan ticket would oppose abortion excepting "rape, incest, and health of the mother." Now, that's not actually that defensible a statement, but it is bowing one's head to reality.
Joe Biden, however, said this (rough quote- still haven't grabbed the actual transcript): "I submit to the teachings of my church that life begins at conception, but I don't think I should force that view on others."
Now, friend-of-the-blog tsrblke (follow him on twitter: @tsrblke) is a Catholic (I assume devout), and aspiring bio-ethicist. I asked him what he thought about Biden's comments, and he said this (paraphrasing): Joe Biden is either a coward or lying. I'll stretch that to say it's not an "either/or" situation.
According to him, that formulation of "I submit..." is a common cop-out method when someone is about to disagree with the Church. Basically it's saying, "I think they're wrong, but I don't want to get excommunicated, so I won't say that." Now, either that is what Biden was doing, or he really does accept Church doctrine. Both of those are bad.
The first is bad because it means he will disregard his faith for political expediency. If he doesn't really accept that teaching of the Church, he should have had the guts to say so. That is: he was showing cowardice. He didn't have the courage of his own convictions to say, "I know what my church teaches, but I disagree. That disagreement is between me and my church, but as a policy matter I cannot support the logical conclusions that follow from 'Life begins at conception,' if I don't fully believe it myself."
The second is bad because it condones murder. Look at what he said- "I agree that life begins at conception, but it's not for me to say you can't have an abortion." Logically that simply does not follow. Mr. Ryan's answer was not logically much better, but at least had the (unspoken) caveat of "Look, I know this illogical, and it's not what I personally support- but sometimes principle has to submit to reality." Mr. Biden's answer though equates to this: "Well, sure I believe you're alive, but it's not for me to say you shouldn't be killed. That's between your murderer and his own conscience."
Logically, if one believes that life begins at conception, then one must oppose all abortions. Even those "for the health of the mother" should make them admit there is a moral quandary there. Two lives are at risk, only one can be saved- which do you save. That really is a truly personal choice. But rape and incest? Logically it cannot follow that those are okay reasons for an abortion if you really believe that life begins at conception.
Joe Biden tried to walk a line which does not exist. He tried to create a moral equivalency between a philosophy of life and one of death. And in so doing, he has condoned murder.