Abortion, often the focus of angry disputes, was on Thursday night the subject of one of the most sober, even thoughtful, exchanges of the vice presidential debate.

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz on Thursday asked Vice President Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, about their positions on abortion, and with two Catholics on stage for the first time, she stressed that they “talk personally” about how their religion affects that stance.

In a rare and brief quiet moment in the debate, the men obliged.

Ryan told the story of seeing an ultrasound of his first child, weeks after conception, at Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Wis. She looked like a bean, Ryan said. And that’s her nickname to this day.

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