Biden, Ryan spar over US abortion rights

The next president's Supreme Court appointments could determine whether abortion remains legal, Vice President Biden said Thursday night.

"The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees, that's how close Roe v. Wade is," Vice President Joe Biden said. 

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His opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), did not directly answer a question from debate moderator Martha Raddatz about whether abortion-rights supporters should be "worried" about a Romney-Ryan administration. 

The Republican vice presidential nominee reiterated that he opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of a pregnant woman is at stake.

Biden said legal abortions would be endangered if Romney is elected. He noted one of Romney's advisers is conservative legal scholar Robert Bork, who was unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1987. 

It was a sign, Biden said, that Romney would likely nominate a Supreme Court justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade

Biden said President Obama nominated "open minded" Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. When Ryan asked if Obama had a "litmus test" for the two justices on abortion, Biden said no. 

Ryan also attacked the Obama administration's contraception mandate, which requires most employers to provide birth control in their employees' healthcare plans, with an exemption for churches and a different set of exceptions for religious-affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals.

"Our church shouldn't have to sue the federal government" to secure basic constitutional rights, Ryan said. Both Ryan and Biden are Catholic.

Biden said he accepted the Catholic Church's positions on abortion personally, but does not believe they should be the official position of the federal government.

"I do not believe that we have the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies," Biden said.