During an exchange about abortion at the vice presidential debate on Tuesday night, Tim Kaine summed up his and Hillary Clinton’s position succinctly: “Trust women.”
“Why don’t you trust women?” Kaine asked Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. “Why doesn't Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?”
Pence had just pointed out that Kaine personally opposes abortion — but that Kaine is still pro-choice, and supports Hillary Clinton’s agenda on issues like repealing the Hyde amendment and restoring federal funding for abortion, even if he disagrees with her.
Pence suggested that he couldn’t understand why Kaine could support abortion as a Catholic, and urged him to consider Mother Teresa and the benefits of adoption.
But Kaine’s response underlined why he — and many Catholics — don’t think abortion should be banned. If abortion is in fact a moral choice, the argument goes, then we should trust women to make that moral choice rather than making it for them.
Some advocates had been hoping that Elaine Quijano, the only female moderator of the 2016 debates, would ask about abortion at Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate. She didn’t, but Pence brought up the issue unprompted during a question about religion.
Kaine also criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump for saying that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions if the procedure is outlawed. Trump later walked those comments back.
But given that women have actually been jailed in America for trying to self-induce an abortion — notably Purvi Patel, who was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison last year in Pence’s own state of Indiana before her conviction was overturned and her sentence reduced — it’s hard to see how outlawing abortion would result in less punishment for women who seek it.