Facing Tough Media Questions, Obama, Biden Discuss Views on Abortion, Democracy, Choice


Sen. Barack Obama today on ABC’s This Week (video) countered misinformation from the far-right about what he meant when he responded to a question from pastor Rick Warren about when human rights begin, via Politico:

During separate televised interviews last month, Pastor Rick Warren asked the two presidential candidates when a baby gets human rights. Obama replied that the question is “above my pay grade,” while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won love from the right by saying quickly, “At the moment of conception.”

Now, Obama tells ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped for “This Week”: “What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into … It’s a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”

In the ABC interview, Obama goes on to give the answer he wishes he’d given: “What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue, that it’s one that families struggle with all the time. And that in wrestling with those issues, I don’t think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions.

“I think the better answer — and this was reflected in the Democratic platform — is to figure out, how do we make sure the young mothers, or women who have a pregnancy that’s unexpected or difficult, have the kind of support they need to make a whole range of choices, including adoption and keeping the child.

 

Obama acknowledged that his response may have been flip, but most people understood that his explanation above is what he meant.  For those who believe only in making the choice for a safe, legal abortion illegal by overturning Roe v. Wade, the original quote was used to fan the flames of the far-right.

McCain replied to the same question by declaring that life begins at conception, which is in line with current Bush Administration proposals to undermine access to contraception, and McCain has pledged the he will appoint Supreme Court Justices that will make the choice for a safe, legal abortion a crime.

Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate Sen. Joe Biden made his 42nd appearance on Meet the Press (video below) answering tough questions from the media, and Tom Brokaw asked him about the debate over when life begins and what that means for our democracy:

Sen. Joe Biden: I know when it begins for me. It is a personal and private issue. For me as a Roman Catholic I’m prepared to accept the teaching of my church. But let me tell you, there are a lot of people of great confessional faiths, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others, who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They’re intently as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views. I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception, but that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally, maybe even more devout than I am, seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, well what about fascism, are you going to say fascism is all right. Fascism isn’t a matter of faith, no decent religious person thinks fascism is all right.  

Tom Brokaw: You believe that life begins at conception and you’ve also voted for abortion rights. 

Sen. Joe Biden: No, what I’ve voted against is curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I’ve voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view, that it’s a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge that’s existed, back in Summa Theologica when Thomas Aquainas wrote Summa Theologica he said it didn’t happen until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out to tell you or anyone else, that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith, and that’s the reason I haven’t. But then again I also don’t support a lot of other things. I don’t support the public funding, because that flips the burden, that’s then telling me that I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person’s God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves, and what we’re going to be doing is make sure that we reduce considerably the number of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children. 

 

Sen. John McCain’s Vice-Presidential running mate Gov. Sarah Palin was the only one of the four major candidates not to appear on a major media interview program today to respond to questions about her beliefs, experience or the future of the country.  McCain made his 65th appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation but was not asked any questions about sexual and reproductive health.

Palin’s views are in line with the GOP platform, called by observers the most extreme on abortion in history, opposing safe, legal abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. Like McCain’s support for Supreme Court Justices like Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts, Palin did make at least one "pro-life" judicial appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court after saying a ruling on the unconstitutionality of a parental notification law was "outrageous."

The McCain-Palin campaign, having fired up the far-right base that wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, has also started to try to appeal to moderates by suggesting that their far-right views, and the most extremely anti-abortion GOP platform in history which calls for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, are more nuanced.

 

 

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  • http://catholicsagainstjoebiden.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Pastor Warren’s question was when do human rights begin — not human life. The latter has hopefully been settled to satisfaction by modern science and advancements in human embryology.

    To characterize opposition to abortion as the “imposition of a religious judgement on everybone else” as Biden (or Pelosi, whom he basically echos) is absolutely false. You don’t have to believe in God to determine the question of when does life begin — and the ‘pro-life’ position that the taking of innocent human life is an evil can be engaged by anybody with a rational mind.

    Once again, we are greeted with the curious spectacle of a Catholic politician appealing to basically flawed 13th century comprehensions of human development (or rather FOURTH CENTURY, since Aquinas’s views were based on Aristotle) — in opposition to the Catholic Bishops’ appeal this week to advancements in human embryology by modern science!

    Perhaps it’s time Senators Biden and Pelosi (not to mention Obama) got out of the dark ages?

    • invalid-0

      “You don’t have to believe in God to determine the question of when does life begin ”

      That’s true. But you do have to be arrogant to assume that your opinion and/or religion should be forced on others. What that understanding entails for you is that you should never, ever have sex with a woman unless she and you wish to become parents. Anything else is cruel and exploitive. It does not mean that the rest of us have to live our lives in a manner you approve of.

      Besides an overwhelming majority of the Catholic laity disagrees with the hierarchy’s peculiar notions about human sexuality and women. What Joseph Biden understands is that he’s not a Priest, he a politician. His business is governing us all, not forcing his religion down our collective throats.

      What I want to know is why, if the Catholic church cares so deeply for human life they aren’t offering affordable heath care to the 1/3rd or more of Americans who have been priced out of the market. It’s not as if they’ve a dearth of federally funded hospitals. Our infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than those in Cuba and y’all are worried about fertilized eggs, philosophy and the loss of your imaginary authority. Or are adults and children in need of health care not innocent enough to be worthy?
      Meanwhile you and yours are going to vote for an old war monger and a woman with a world view the size of a postage stamp who will kill a few more million people with actual breath

  • invalid-0

    I recall that during the convention more than one Democrat speaker noted that they were the “party of science.” Why does faith matter when it comes to determining when human life begins? It’s a scientific question. Personal faith should have nothing to do with this answer. It’s a cop out.

  • http://catholicsagainstjoebiden.blogspot.com invalid-0

    What I find puzzling — even incoherent — is that Biden
    maintains he is “personally against” abortion and at the same time unwilling to impose such an opinion on others, concurrent with the claim to fully accept “on faith” that a human life begins “at conception” (which as already established, is not ‘religiously based’, but a phenomenon open to verification by modern science).

    It seems to me that if you would be “personally opposed” to taking a human life and consider it a grave evil — you would seek to oppose that wrong legislatively. Yet, Biden is willing to relinquish such moral judgement when it comes to others.

    What would we say if a politician claimed that he accepts “on faith” his denomination’s assertion that slavery or torture is a great moral evil — that he is “personally opposed”, but understands that others may in fact disagree with him and so won’t press the issue?

  • invalid-0

    Christopher, excellent points. Politicians are people–and sometimes people of faith. How can it be that they can “turn off” their beliefs when it comes to decision making policies–especially when it comes to matters of such importance? We’re not talking about term limits or precinct boundaries here–we’re talking about life and death issues. What happened to absolute right and wrong? Murder, adultery, rape, child abuse, theft. How can any of these things ever become allowed or accepted? The whole idea (that is permeating our society) of “I do what I do and you do what you do and as long nobody ‘gets hurt’ it is okay”, has got to stop. There is intrinsic right and wrong–always has been and always will be. And abortion has always been and always will be intrinsically wrong. Wrong for the mother, wrong for the father and certainly wrong for the innocent baby. But, we also have to also realize that abortion is crime against society.

  • invalid-0

    has anyone read “tipping point” by Malcolm Gladwell? perhaps abortions actually prevent future crimes from occuring. how does the cost of an abotion compare with the cost of housing and feeding an inmate for 20+ years? he’ll probably get out in 5 though since the prisons are already jam packed with all those other non-aborted contributing members of society. in a perfect world abortion wouldn’t even exist- and it wouldn’t be my tax dollars funding abstinence-only programs full of knocked-up teenagers. mmmm… welfare.

  • scott-swenson

    In a nation of many faiths, Biden’s comments are completely coherent, because he focuses on the individual making the decision in accord with their beliefs. But what “pro-lifers” argue is that their belief alone should be the law of the land. The framers used the concept “separation of church and state” to protect us all from having a belief system we don’t adhere to imposed on us by government. And while distracted by these social issues, an unpopular war continues to claim lives, the economy continues to falter, the lack of access to health care continues to consume many middle class families, and the hope from the extreme far-right crowd is that no one will pay attention to anything but overturning Roe, and imposing one world view on our democracy. And you call people trying to preserve a sense of democracy incoherent? Sounds to me like the fight you have with Biden is something that should take place in the Vatican, not the halls of Congress.


    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    Sir, you are wrong. In a democracy, we vote into office those people that best represent how we feel about the issues the effect us most. We ask that the politicians tell us how they stand on the issues before we vote them into office. Again, we vote for a particular person as he corresponds to how we believe in the issues. We want our issues pushed forward. So, we vote for the person that we think will be able to do so from the ground up. Your fallacious suggestion, as to what democracy is, goes something like this: I am personally opposed to the war in Iraq because innocent lives are being taken. However, I cannot impose my views on anybody else because different people have different beliefs as to the effectiveness and the need for the war. So, I will vote for continuing the war even though I am personally against the taking of innocent life. That’s not a democracy. We vote for the people that we want to represent us based on how they share our beliefs about the issues that matter to us. That is how it works. We all feel much safer knowing that someone actually is voting the way he himself has claimed to have believed, anyway. This is a way that we hold him accountable. Too bad this is just not the case with Biden. He betrays his very own belief to get elected. How convicted about your issues do you think he really is, then? For him, it goes something like this: I am personally opposed to abortion, at whatever stage of the baby’s development a woman would decide to do so, from conception or fertilization onwards, because I believe it is actual taking of an innocent life and so does the Church to which I belong. However, I will personally vote for those policies and funding that directly continue to allow abortions because some people have different views on what abortion is and what that may mean for them personally. I will go against what I believe is true and allow people that I actually believe to exist to die. Because that is what I actually believe is happening. So I will let other pole take life and even help them to do so because this is one of the issues on which I got elected to office and now I am stuck with it. What am I going to do? This is a really principled guy, huh? Who knows, the Church just may ask him to repudiate his position as a condition to remain in the Church. In any case, I imagine that all the publicity this is causing is decreasing the membership in Catholics for Choice. If not, I guarantee you that those Catholics that were on the fence are no longer, as well as many other people of different beliefs after experiencing the unprincipled Mr. Biden. .

    Timothy+

  • invalid-0

    Sir, you are wrong. In a democracy, we vote into office those people that best represent how we feel about the issues that effect us most. We ask that the politicians tell us how they stand on the issues before we vote them into office. Again, we vote for a particular person as he corresponds to how we believe in the issues. We want our issues pushed forward. So, we vote for the person that we think will be able to do so from the ground up. Your fallacious suggestion, as to what a democracy is, goes something like this: I am personally opposed to the war in Iraq because innocent lives are being taken. However, I cannot impose my views on anybody else because different people have different beliefs as to the effectiveness and the need for the war. So, I will vote for continuing the war even though I am personally against the taking of innocent life. That’s not a democracy. We vote for the people that we want to represent us based on how they share our beliefs about the issues that matter to us. That is how it works. We all feel much safer knowing that someone actually is voting the way he himself has claimed to have believed, anyway. This is a way that we hold him accountable. Too bad this is just not the case with Biden. He betrays his very own belief to get elected. How convinced about your issues do you think he really is, then? For him, it goes something like this: I am personally opposed to abortion, at whatever stage of the baby’s development a woman would decide to do so, from conception or fertilization onwards, because I believe it is actual taking of an innocent life and so does the Church to which I belong. However, I will personally vote for those policies and funding that directly continue to allow abortions because some people have different views on what abortion is and what that may mean for them personally. I will go against what I believe is true and allow people that I actually believe to exist to die. Because that is what I actually believe is happening. So I will let other people take life and even help them to do so because this is one of the issues on which I got elected to office and now I am stuck with it. What am I going to do? This is a really principled guy, huh? Who knows, the Church just may ask him to repudiate his position as a condition to remain in the Church. In any case, I imagine that all the publicity this is causing is decreasing the membership in Catholics for Choice. If not, I guarantee you that those Catholics that were on the fence are no longer, as well as many other people of different beliefs, after experiencing the unprincipled Mr. Biden.

    Timothy+

  • invalid-0

    Right on, Brother Timothy!

  • invalid-0

    I’ve always liked word problems, so here goes…
    .
    So, if we are to make a comparative analysis of the “abortion versus housing an inmate in prison question”, I suppose we first need to know how much it costs per year to feed and keep an inmate incarcerated. The Florida Department of Corrections puts that figure at $19,002 per year (or $95,010 for 5 years or $380,040 for the full 20-year sentence). Wow, sounds like a lot of tax-payers’ money! The second piece of data we will need to make a comparison is the value of a human life in dollars. Hmm, that one is a bit tougher. Maybe Kate, you could shed some light on that one for me. What is your life worth in dollars? Or my life or Barack Obama’s or Hitler’s life or the life of my neighbor’s son who has Down Syndrome? How about that fetus or zygote or embryo’s life that you are considering destroying, what would you say it is worth? Less value than your life or any other? Would say maybe $25,000 or perhaps $25 million or even $25 trillion? Can you really put a price on human life?
    .
    So, yes, in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell (which I did read) it looks like a lifestyle change in the Sixties (due to the use of birth control and the practice of abortion) may have caused a demographic change a couple decades later, but could we conclude that the ends justified the means? Did the evil bring good? Were the abortions worth the lower crime rates? If it could be shown that there was a decrease in the amount of poverty and homelessness among the Jewish people in the middle sixties because of the Holocaust a few decades prior, would you conclude that the Nazi “experiment of extermination” was worthwhile!!??
    .
    Are you actually suggesting that you or I or anyone else could make those calls and say that the following list of people (i.e. single mothers, mother living below the poverty line, mothers in high-crime areas) abort their babies for the “good of society” so that the world will be a better place in the future?
    .
    How are we ever going to get to that “perfect world” you mention, if we continue down this road?

  • invalid-0

    The reason choice will not be taken away from women is because women still die in childbirth. I know. My neighbor did. Her heart simply gave out, and she was a young woman. Due to all the complications of childbirth, and the death/injury of so many infants and mothers during childbirth, the amount of OB/GYN doctors leaving their practice is alarming. These are the experts. They know the dangers of pregnancy. Forcing a woman to give birth is like handing her a possible death sentence.

    Instead, we should be going after all the industries polluting our American skies, waters and soils causing our bodies to hold 200% the toxic body burden compared to the standard European. As a biologist, I know these toxic chemicals cause miscarriages in women who WANT their babies. According to the American Medical Association statistics, there are thousands of miscarriages for each one abortion. Its the GOP who protect these polluters, yet the religious “right” supports the GOP. As they do so, they are causing more fetal deaths than of Roe VS Wade.

    • invalid-0

      thank you witness to dangers–I have long said this and would love to see this point brought up by the Democrats. Though they do not always support a healthy environment they have a much better record than Republicans –who consistently side with big business in polluting our environement and thus harming our health(and fetuses are the first to be harmed by toxins).