Yes, you can ask tough questions of pro-choice candidates

Last night was the only Vice Presidential debate we’ll get in this cycle. Almost all of that debate and attendant media coverage is outside the purview of this blog. But right there at the end, the moderator got into religion. Although the answers the candidates gave were interesting, let’s focus simply on the questions from journalist Martha Raddatz:

RADDATZ: I want to — we’re — we’re almost out of time here.

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

RADDATZ: … please talk personally about this, if you could.

Congressman Ryan?

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RADDATZ: I’m — I’m going to move on to this closing question because we are running out of time.

You will note that the pointed follow-up question went to Ryan, not Biden. And I’m all for follow-up questions. But why just to Ryan?

Journalists just have remarkable trouble asking pointed follow-up questions of politicians who support abortion rights — no matter how extreme their views might be on the matter.

Now, perhaps Raddatz doesn’t know enough to know that people would disagree whether Biden understands Roman Catholic teaching on abortion, much less accepts it. Perhaps that’s not where she should direct a tough follow-up question.

But how about asking him whether he could envision any limitations on abortion at all, whatsoever? How about asking him if he thinks it should be legal to kill an unborn child simply because that child is a female? How about asking him if he thinks that there is anything wrong with terminating a pregnancy because the fetus has Down syndrome?

And should a question about abortion be tied to both men’s religious views? Ryan answered that religion and science inform his views on protection of unborn life. Biden said his religion only requires him to be personally opposed to abortion and that he can’t force Muslims to also oppose abortion. But is there too much religion — and too little science — in how Raddatz framed this question? In how journalists treat opposition to abortion in general?

Obviously religion plays a huge role in many people’s commitment to the abortion issue. We’re big fans of media coverage that explores that role. But is the particular approach journalists take to religion and abortion accurately conveying the reasoning behind the various sides here?

Imagine of woman having trouble coming up with questions via Shutterstock.


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