Although Pence did not directly answer the question, he brought up his opposition to abortion by paraphrasing the biblical verse Jeremiah 1:5, “before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.” Earlier this year, Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, signed a law that banned abortions based on gender or disability.
Pence targeted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, by raising the issues of partial-birth abortion and an amendment barring most taxpayer funds for abortion. The decades-old Hyde Amendment had previously received support from some Democrats, including Kaine, but this year’s Democratic Party platform vowed to repeal the amendment.
Kaine said the abortion issue is a decision “we trust American women to do.”
“We don’t think women should be punished, as Donald Trump said they should, for the decision to have an abortion,” he said, citing comments Trump made in March.
Pence said he and Trump would not support legislation that would punish women.
“Then why did Donald Trump say that?” Kaine asked.
“He’s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton,” Pence said.
“I’ve got a great line from the Gospel of Matthew,” Kaine said.
“From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks,” he said, a reference to Matthew 15:18 that also appears in Matthew 12:34 and other gospels and is a phrase that Kaine has used on the campaign trail. “When Donald Trump says that women should be punished, or Mexicans are criminals, or John McCain’s not a hero, he is showing you who he is.”
Pence responded, “Senator, you’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again,” referring to the number of times during the debate that Kaine brought up Trump’s comments on Mexicans.
In response to the moderator’s question, Kaine noted his struggle with the death penalty when he was governor of Virginia, saying that he personally opposes the death penalty but upheld state law. Kaine, who is Catholic and says he supports the church’s opposition to the death penalty, oversaw 11 executions during his governorship.
“I think it is really, really important that those of us who have deep faith lives don’t feel like we can just substitute our views for everybody else in society regardless of their views,” Kaine said.
Both men are expected to attract religious voters, especially Catholics and evangelicals, to their campaigns. Pence cited his upbringing in the church and has called himself an evangelical Catholic.
Kaine also cited his missionary work with Jesuits in Honduras during law school, calling them “the heroes of my life.”
“I try to practice my religion in a very devout way and follow the teachings of my church in my own personal life,” he said. He said he does not believe this should be a nation where one religion is raised above another, “that the doctrines of any religion should be mandated over another.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated the incorrect number of words the Bible verse Kaine cited was. The correct number is nine. The piece was updated to note that a similar Bible reference is repeated in Matthew 12:34.