At The Compassion Forum held at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania on Sunday night April 13, both Democratic presidential candidates were presented with a simple, but profound question, “Does life begin at conception?” Their answers are telling.
Senator Hilary Clinton: I believe that the potential for life begins at conception. I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out. But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved.
Senator 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.
There was so much side-stepping, some attendees might have thought their GPS guidance system had led them to a western line dance instead of a Democratic presidential debate. The obfuscatory answers remind me of the song, The Witch Doctor, by Alvin and the Chipmunks, “Oo-ee-oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla-bing-bang, oo-ee-oo-ah-ah, ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang.”
Truthful answers to simple questions favor brevity. Complicated answers tend toward concealment. While evasive, both of these answers tell us a lot about each candidate. Senator Clinton's and Obama's answers were essentially the same; I will use Mrs. Clinton's statements here.
“I believe that the potential for life begins at conception.”
The potential for life begins well before conception, even before sexual intercourse, assuming a fertile man and a fertile woman. Indirectly, Mrs. Clinton answered the question in the negative. Since, by definition, potential life is not life, Mrs. Clinton does not believe life begins at conception. I infer that she believes it is okay to end a potential life.
Next, Mrs. Clinton spoke of her denomination’s position,
"My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out."
This statement implies it would be unreasonable to expect Senator Clinton to adopt an unambiguous position, especially since her own denomination can’t come to terms with the issue. It sounds like she is "passing the buck" by deferring to a higher authority than herself. I believe there were some Nazis in World War II who used a similar argument to justify their actions.
Incidentally, there is nothing profound about the question, “Does life begin at conception?” The fact that life might begin at conception is the profundity staring back at any soul choosing between life and abortion, whether to continue with an inconvenient or embarrassing pregnancy.
Since we can't be certain the fetus isn’t a life, including abortion on the list of possible "solutions" is automatically unethical and represents the worst kind of deviant presumption against God's design. Would it not be unethical to demolish an abandoned building if we thought there might be a homeless person inside, unwanted though they might be? It is equally unethical to abort an unwanted pregnancy if it might be a life.
Finally, Senator Clinton says, “But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved.”
I understand about the life and well-being of the mother. But what other lives is she talking about? The father? When did he start getting a say? The parents? I didn’t think they were allowed to know. Let’s cut to the chase. The life and “well-being” of the mother argument has been used to trump all other considerations, including the unborn child's life, and make it okay to terminate a pregnancy, at any time, for any reason.
Senator Clinton's answer implies that the moment a potential life's head pops out of the womb, thus certifying it's status as a life, the mother's future is shipwrecked and her pursuit of the American dream abruptly ended. With only nine abortionist-shopping months in which to choose, the mother will just have to keep her fingers crossed that her fetus is only a potential life. Sadly, Mrs. Clinton's perspective no longer rouses a failing national conscience too weak to respond.
A good follow-on question might have been, “Is it okay to end potential life?” Or, “When does a ‘potential life’ become a life?” Or, “If we can’t be sure when a potential life becomes a life, when and on what basis does it become okay to end a pregnancy?” Or, “What is life?” Does “not knowing” grant absolution?
Here’s a simple set of principles for evaluating candidates:
Principle 1 - If you can’t be trusted to “get it right” on human life, you can’t be trusted to “get it right” on anything less important.
Principle 2 - Everything else is less important.
Principle 3 - If you are wrong on life, you are not fit to lead a nature hike, much less, a nation.
If these principles make me a “single-issue voter,” then I’ll wear that awareness ribbon proudly.