Barack Obama on When Life Begins and Partial Birth Abortion

I’d like to talk about something that happened on CNN, the Democratic Candidates Compassion Forum, where Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, asked Senator Obama and Senator Clinton questions. These questions are issues that we deal with frequently on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, questions about the problem of evil and suffering, questions about the end of life and whether euthanasia is ever permissible, questions about the origin of life, and questions such as when life begins and what is an embryo. Is an embryo something that has potential life or does all life begin at conception?

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, asked this question to Barack Obama and he said in essence “I don’t know if life begins at conception.” This is what he said:

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek: Senator, do you personally believe that life begins at conception? And if not, when does it begin?

Barack Obama: This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates. (Democratic Candidates Compassion Forum, CNN, April 13, 2008)

The last thing that he said was particularly interesting. He used the phrase “potential life” and he went on to say there is something extraordinarily powerful about this potential life and that this power has to do with the moral weight that the issue would have if this has life, if this is, in fact, a human being from the moment of conception. So he understands the issue.

By the way, this is a guy who was the head of the Harvard Law Review, educated at Harvard, so this isn’t your average guy. This isn’t the first time he’s thought about these issues. It seems to me that his answer is a typical political answer – it’s big on rhetoric, small on reason, and even smaller on logic.

Of course life begins at conception. What is it if it’s not living? The zygote, the conceptus, the embryo, fulfills the criteria needed to establish the existence of biological life. It has metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli and cell reproduction. That’s why taking the life of an embryo is terminating the life of the embryo, which is killing. While it’s true that everyone is born and conceived in sin, according to the Christian worldview, preborn children are innocent because they have done nothing to deserve capital punishment. They deserve, instead, protection.

What Obama is unwilling to embrace is the full human potential of the embryo. He wants to hide behind the phrase “potential life.” The reality is the living baby in the mother’s womb is a human being. The child is the product of human parents and has a totally distinct human genetic code. If Barack Obama was living in the 19th century, we could give him a pas, but he’s not living in the 19th century – he’s living in an age of scientific enlightenment and he should know what someone from the school in which he was educated knew, namely Dr. Mathews-Roth, a principal research associate at Harvard Medical Schools Department of Medicine, who may have been saying this when he was being educated there.”

“It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life.”

Therefore, if you’re Barack Obama you cannot discriminate. You can’t decide “I’m Barack Obama. I’m going to decide that I can take that life, and it’s perfectly okay to take that life when it’s 10 minutes old or it’s 10 days old or when it’s 8 months old” or, in his case he cannot decide that it’s okay to kill that baby in the most ghastly of all experiments, partial birth abortion, of which he is in favor.

Now think about this for a moment. I have a lot of children. I have seen my children being born and it’s one of the most awesome experiences any human being will ever have, to see one human being come out of the other. It has always reduced me to tears. What is even more tearful – and my tears were tears of joy, are tears of pain – to imagine that we have a politician who is saying it is okay to kill that child. Remember, in partial-birth abortion I don’t think there’s a whole lot of mystery to it. The only difference is a difference of location. In other words, it’s okay in his view to kill the child, to terminate it, execute it, if it’s partially born. But if it’s fully born, well he would probably be crying for the death penalty for anybody who did this, or certainly think it was a horrendous act, at best.

Imagine this – think with me for a moment – what is the difference between that child two minutes before the umbilical cord is severed and afterwards? Is there any difference? If you’ve ever seen a birth you know there is no difference, and yet he is for partial-birth abortion.

Dr. Hymie Gordon is a professor of Medical Genetics and a physician at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. He summarized the perspective of science, and I think he did it well when he said “I think we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life — when life begins — is no longer a question for theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact. Theologians and philosophers” – and I would add politicians – “may go on to debate the meaning of life or purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception.”

I would add that since science has demonstrated that a pre-born child is human, and since all human beings have transcendent value, it follows that taking the life of an innocent human being through abortion is unthinkable. Remember when this is debated on television that you, as a Christian, ought to be armed with the ammunition, because the questions are now coming up, they’re being dealt with, they’re being discussed, and you shouldn’t be in the dark. You should know you didn’t come from an embryo – you once were an embryo, and that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world. So we should be listening to these debates with Christian ears, ears of Christians in an age of scientific enlightenment, the ears of Christians who know how to take these kinds of issues and use them as springboards or opportunities for communicating a Christian worldview. We should to this with power and passion because we’re talking about life. The life issues are significant. Are they the only issues? No. But they are significant.

In fairness, I could have reported Senator Clinton’s remarks, because she deals with the life issue as well. Or we could play John McCain’s remarks. The point isn’t to isolate a politician but to point out the ghastly reality that these people are getting a pass when they are standing for some of the most ghastly things imaginable in human civilization. Partial birth abortion is unthinkable. Even if you think it’s okay to terminate a zygote, the very notion of terminating a child that’s just about to emerge into a world that God created for them is unthinkable. It’s simply ghastly and it should never be permitted in a civilized society. At least that’s one issue we’ve made some progress on in the last eight years. We didn’t make much progress on the life issue but that’s one place where we made progress, and yet Obama is still in a backward condition on this articular issue.


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