Tim Kaine said he and Hillary Clinton 'support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience'

In the debate between the two potential US vice-presidents, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence clashed over the issue on abortion.

Kaine, a Catholic who says he personally opposes abortion but has consistently voted in favour of abortion rights, said he and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton supported Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States in 1973.

“We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own supportive partner, their own minister, but then make their own decision about pregnancy,” Kaine said.

He added that “you should live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of your faith”, but added “it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else.”

In the debate, Pence, raised Catholic but now an Evangelical Protestant, stressed his opposition to abortion and also criticised Hillary Clinton for opposing a ban on partial term abortions. Clinton voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 because it did not include exceptions based on health grounds.

Pence said it was unacceptable that “a child that is almost-born into the world could still have their life taken from them”.

Kaine went on to criticise Trump’s previous assertion that women should face some kind of “punishment” for abortion, a comment the presidential hopeful later distanced himself from.

“Why doesn’t (he) trust women to make this choice for themselves?” Kaine asked.

Pence said Trump would never support legislation to punish women for getting abortions, and added that his running mate was “not a polished politician like [Kaine] and Hillary Clinton”.

He said he was “proud” to be standing on a pro-life ticket with Trump.

During the debate on Tuesday, Indiana Governor Pence and Virginia Senator Kaine, who have received little attention in a race focused on Trump and Clinton, faced off for 90 minutes in the only vice presidential debate of the campaign.

With the close White House race perhaps starting to tip in Clinton’s favour, Pence outlined a detailed conservative agenda on tax policy, entitlements and immigration and painted the Democratic ticket as career politicians unwilling to shake up Washington.

“Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same,” Pence said. He also repeatedly accused the Democrats of running an “insult-driven” campaign.

Kaine pressed Pence to justify some of his running mate’s provocative statements, quoting Trump’s own words such as dismissing some women as pigs or slobs. He also challenged Pence on Trump’s decision to break with decades of campaign tradition by not releasing his personal tax information.

“Donald Trump must give the American public his tax returns to show he’s prepared to be president, and he’s breaking his promise,” Kaine said.

Asked about reports that Trump might not have paid any federal taxes for years, Pence said his running mate “used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used, and he did it brilliantly.”