In the vice-presidential debate, Joe Biden said that he accepts in his personal life the Catholic church teaching that life begins at conception, but is not willing to impose this teaching on others.
I understand how someone could be reluctant to impose a personal feeling of discomfort with abortion on others-after all, it’s a deeply personal decision. One could personally resolve to never get an abortion, and yet be unwilling to legally prohibit others from doing so.
However, if you personally believe that life does begin at conception, then it seems to straightforwardly follow from that that abortion is the taking of a life. In which case, if abortion really does take a life, then regulating abortion only imposes your belief on others in the same sense that regulating the killing of those outside the womb imposes your belief on others.
Yes, our society does impose a belief in general that the (involuntary?) taking of life is wrong. We accept that certain people-cannibals, psychopathic killers, etc.-may disagree with this moral imposition, and are nonetheless willing as a society to ban the involuntary killing of others (setting certain situations such as war, the death penalty, self defense, etc. aside).
The dispute between the pro-lifers and the pro-choices, to boil down a very complex debate, is essentially over whether abortion IS the taking of a life, or if a fetus is not really a life with the same moral standing as you or I. Once Joe Biden concedes that life does begin at conception, I don’t think he has a good argument to refuse to impose this belief on others, and I wish that Ryan had pressed him on it, or alternately, the media would question him about it.