August 27, 2008
Asked by Rick Warren when he believes “a baby gets human rights,” John McCain didn’t hesitate to say “at the moment of conception.” For Barack Obama, however, this question remains a struggle. “Well, ah, ah, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective,” Obama pondered to Warren, “answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.”
Barack Obama doesn’t like this question. And those nit-picky Christians keep springing it upon him during these religious forums.
Obama was asked about conception at the “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College in April, where he likewise dissembled: “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 has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”
Well, apparently not extraordinarily powerful enough for Obama to seek an answer for these debates.
Obama’s responses beg another question: If he’s unclear about this fundamental matter, which any embryologist could easily clarify for him, why hasn’t he consulted someone? He is also no expert on say, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or the newest bill before Congress on tax policy. Senators, like all of us, don’t begin from a starting point of expertise on all these issues. They learn; or, their staff learns and advises them.
So, to repeat the question, why, since he first publicly pondered the conception question at Messiah in April, hasn’t Obama sought answers? What could be a more important life question?
This prompts an even bigger question: Why in the world is Obama urging embryonic stem-cell research? Why does he promise that if he becomes president, he will reverse President Bush’s prohibitions on embryonic research? How can he rush into such actions if he doesn’t even know whether an embryo is human life? That’s recklessly irresponsible.
I could understand Obama advocating such research if he was convinced that embryos aren’t life, and that life doesn’t begin at conception. I would disagree, but I could understand.
For those not familiar with embryonic stem-cell research, it works like this: Human embryos are created for the explicit purpose of being dissected and destroyed for medical research. Every human being who has ever lived began as an embryo. In this brave new world, however, there are people who favor raising and exterminating embryos before they become human life.
Since Obama isn’t sure whether life begins at conception, he should err on the side of caution—on the side of life. A demolition crew makes sure there’s no one left in the abandoned building before destroying it. The crew chief wouldn’t dare say, “I’m not sure if there are human beings in there, but go ahead and blow it up.” Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy would drag that chief in chains before a Congressional committee.
As is often the case with modern liberalism, Obama’s stance generates a potpourri of added contradictions. Consider one of the main reasons cited by liberals for opposing capital punishment: they argue that there’s always a chance that a condemned individual may be innocent. If we can’t know with absolute certainty that an alleged murderer has committed murder, then we should err on the side of caution—on the side of life. He should be spared execution.
Conversely, then, if Obama isn’t sure about the humanity of the embryo, why go ahead and execute it? What could be more innocent than an embryo?
Liberals think they’re clever when they ask how conservatives can be pro-life on abortion while supporting capital punishment. Quite the contrary, there’s a much more troubling contradiction among liberals who are pro-choice on abortion while opposing capital punishment. Obama’s position of “don’t-know-but-kill-anyway” on embryos is worse than either.
The truth, of course, is that Barack Obama knows life begins at conception. He isn’t stupid. As Bill Clinton has conceded, “everyone knows life begins biologically at conception.”
Yes, but not everyone can be honest about it. Barack Obama can’t give a truthful answer because doing so would undermine the moral credibility of his position—from embryonic research to unrestricted abortion.
Like John Kerry, like Al Gore, and like the entire leadership of the modern Democratic Party, Barack Obama has sold his soul to the pro-choice lobby. That’s quite sad, because it means a lot of would-be humans will not be permitted to become humans. That is not American leadership—and it is certainly not “hope.”
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His recent books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).