The weekend of August 16th 2008 was historic when Rick Warren of Saddleback Church facilitated a discussion with both Barack Obama and John McCain. I thought Rick Warren did a brilliant job of facilitating that discussion and really asking questions that a lot of people deeply care about.
For example, Rick Warren asked about abortion. In fact when he was talking to McCain he said that “he as a pastor had to deal with abortion all the time from various angles, the pain, the decisions, and forty million abortions since Roe v Wade. Some people who believe that life begins at conception believe that this was the holocaust for many people.” Then Warren asked McCain this question, “What point is a baby entitled to human rights?” McCain answered in just five words “At the moment of conception”.
Now Barack Obama was asked the exact same question and had an entirely different answer.
Rick Warren: “Let’s deal with abortion; 40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. As a pastor, I have to deal with this all of the time, all of the pain and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very complex issue. Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”
Barack Obama: “Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”
Now I have to admit that it was a very humble answer to the question or maybe it was a dodge. It certainly should not be above the pay grade of someone running for the president of the United States of America, the most powerful leader in the free world.
In fact, it should not be above the pay grade of any Christian sitting in the pew. We should know the answer to that question because it has been solved both theologically and scientifically. Dr. Hymie Gordon, professor of medical genetics and a physician at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, best summarized the perspective of science 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 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.”1
The living baby in the mother’s womb is a human being because this child is the product of human parents and has a totally distinct human genetic code. In other words, we can say that abortion terminates the life of a human being and that this is established by science. The zygote fulfills the criteria needed to establish existence of biological life, metabolism, development; the ability to react to stimuli, and cell reproduction; abortion terminates that zygote.
Dr. Matthew Roth, a principal research associate at Harvard said, “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.”2
French geneticist Jerome L. LeJeune also gave a similar sentiment in a sworn statement to the United States Senate sub-committee: “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.”3
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, especially in this age of scientific enlightenment! While an embryo does not have a fully developed personality it does have full personhood from the moment of conception. You didn’t come from an adolescent you once were an adolescent, likewise you didn’t come from an embryo you once were an embryo.
Moreover, if Obama is unsure when a life obtains human rights, he should err on the side of caution. In other words on the side of life, lest he risk the horrendous reality of violating another human being’s rights.
We are talking here about life and death issues and indeed Rick Warren was right. We have experienced a holocaust in our midst. Children are the most defenseless among us and we ought to protect them in all stages of their lives.
- The Human Life Bill , S. 158, Report Together with Additional and Minority Views to the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, made by its Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, 97th Congress, 1st Session (1981), 11; quoted in , Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 43.
- The Human Life Bill , S. 158, Report Together with Additional and Minority Views to the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, made by its Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, 97th Congress, 1st Session (1981), 11; quoted in , Beckwith,43.
- The Human Life Bill, Hearings on S. 158 before the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 97th Congress, 1st Session (1981), as quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 149; cited in Beckwith, 42.