Both Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic candidate for Vice President Kamala Harris restated their long-held stances on abortion at the sole debate between the two candidates on Wednesday (Oct. 7).
Pence, a "principled conservative" and a supporter of the Tea Party movement, is a veteran pro-lifer, while Harris, the first African American female candidate of either party and former Attorney General of California, has been a long-time supporter of access to abortion. The debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was the only vice presidential debate for the election and was less chaotic and bitter than the debate between Trump and Biden eight days earlier.
The face-off between the candidates was marked by evasiveness and non-answers on both sides. While Pence avoided direct questions about the Affordable Care Act and whether he believes climate change is an existential threat, Harris refused to answer Pence's question about a court-packing scheme if Biden and Harris win the election. Harris additionally evaded a question from the moderator about similarities between Biden's climate plan and the Green New Deal.
On Friday, the Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the next presidential debate, previously scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, and then moved to an online format on Thursday. Trump rejected this plan for a virtual second debate, saying in an interview on Fox Business, "I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate."
"It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22," the commission said in a statement.
The decision came after President Trump and others in his debate prep team and inner circle tested positive for COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the cancellation, saying that Biden had objected to Trump's suggestion of moving the dates back.
The next and final debate between the two candidates will take place at Belmont University in Nashville. Kristen Welker, an anchor with NBC News will moderate and select topics for the debate. At the vice-presidential debate, moderator Susan Page, USA Today's Washington bureau chief, asked candidates what they would want their home states to do if Roe v. Wade was reversed by the Supreme Court.
Pence and Harris both avoided the question but instead reaffirmed their respective positions on abortion. Harris, who is a senator from California, said she "will always fight for a woman's right to make a decision about her own body. It should be her decision and not that" of Republican lawmakers.
Pence, a former governor and congressman of Indiana stated that he was proud to serve with a president "who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. I'm pro-life. I don't apologize for it, and this is another one of those cases where there's such a dramatic contrast."
Democrats "support taxpayer funding of abortion all the way up to the moment of birth, late-term abortion," he said, adding: "They want to increase funding to Planned Parenthood," the leading provider of abortions in the country.
On the topic of Barrett and Roe v. Wade, Pence described that he "would never presume how" Barrett would rule and judge if she were to be confirmed. He did express concern over how Harris as well as other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary would treat Barrett based on her Catholic faith. In her 2017 confirmation hearings for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett received intense questioning over her religious beliefs and affiliation with a religious group called the People of Praise. The hearings are currently scheduled to begin Oct. 12 amid backlash from liberals who fear an overwhelming conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
During the debate, Pence asked Harris if she and Biden plan to add seats to the Supreme Court if Barrett is nominated and Biden wins the election. Harris replied by criticizing Trump's nominations of conservative justices to federal courts.
"Let's talk about packing the court then," Harris replied to Pence. She said that Trump's nominations for lifetime appointments were "purely ideological people" who were "not competent."
She pointed out the lack of diversity among Trump's nominees for the Court of Appeals, accusing their administration of packing the courts themselves, "And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? You want to talk about packing a court? Let's have that discussion."
As Biden has in the presidential debate and when asked in other instances, Harris declined to answer if a Biden-Harris administration would pack the Supreme Court.