Christianity,  Politics

Gingrich: Life Does Not Begin at Conception

Wesley Smith highlights an interview that Speaker Gingrich gave to ABC News last month. In a conversation with Jake Tapper, Speaker Gingrich said that he did not believe that life begins at conception. Here’s the exchange:

TAPPER: Abortion is a big issue here in Iowa among conservative Republican voters and Rick Santorum has said you are inconsistent. The big argument here is that you have supported in the past embryonic stem cell research and you made a comment about how these fertilized eggs, these embryos are not yet “pre-human” because they have not been implanted. This has upset conservatives in this state who worry you don’t see these fertilized eggs as human life. When do you think human life begins?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’ I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. Because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions

TAPPER: So implantation is the moment for you.

GINGRICH: Implantation and successful implantation.

Gingrich has said that he opposes embryonic stem cell research, but upon what moral principle does he oppose it? If the embryos aren’t human, why can’t they be destroyed? In this interview, he supports the right policy while at the same time undermining the moral basis for it. It makes his position sound more like an expediency than a conviction.

In a subsequent clarifying statement, Gingrich says that he believes after all that life begins at conception: read it here. I am not sure how a man with his length of experience botched the original answer, but there it is. Having said that, I still think his initial interview is relevant. It shows that he did not know what the principled pro-life position is on when life begins. It suggests that someone had to explain it to him after the fact. And it speaks to how committed he really is to the issue.


    • Denny Burk


      Conception occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The result of conception is a human embryo.

      After conception, the embryo then attempts to implant itself in the lining of the wall of the uterus. This is where the baby will then receive nourishment and grow to full term.

      Gingrich is saying life doesn’t begin until after implantation.


  • Nate

    Yet this is where technology has brought difficult questions and situations to light, hasn’t it? The fact is that in a non test tube birth process the egg could be fertilized but never successfully attach to the uternine wall. Nobody other than God knows how many times that happens and until the in-vetro process we would have never even given thought to those eggs.

    Just another reason in-vetro fertilization has created problems that society never had to deal with prior.

    Having said that, I am not a Gingrich fan at all.

  • donsands

    Life begins at conception. Amen.

    Newt is Newt. He is a politician, and can not be trusted. He represents why our nation is in turmoil. And he is running for President? Amazing.

  • Paul

    The practical reason Newt probably said what he did: the pill.

    The practical reason Newt walked it back: the religious right. trust me when I tell you, he did not mess up, and his practical position (and realistically, the non-insane one) would govern around this version of when life begins. If he pays it any credence at all.

    Newt’s the consummate politician, save for the entertaining moments where he wishes more terrorist attacks had happened. Newt will say what he needs to say to win an election, and then he will govern mostly like a Rockafeller (sp?) Republican. I would say mark my words, but if he’s the nominee, we’ll never find out.

    • Howard


      I agree and was going to say exactly the same thing. The birth control pill seeks to diminish ovulation, but when that fails it works by keeping fertilized eggs from implanting on the wall of the uterus, by reducing the ability of the wall to sustain life (think of robbing a plant of water and nutrients). This mechanism is functionally abortion, stopping life that is already begun. This mechanism occasionally fails (that is why sometime women have babies while on the pill).

      The odd thing to me is not that Newt Gingrich takes this position but that this is the functional position of the wide majority of evangelical churches and pastors that I know.

  • Christiane

    The ‘moment of conception’ must be clarified for those politicians who seek office and are fighting for legislation to end abortion.

    It is not just a matter of preventing a surgical abortion.

    IF the candidate has stated that he opposes ALL abortion,
    he must be asked if he sees a fertilized egg as a ‘person’
    then he must be asked ‘Do you oppose the forms of birth control that abort persons?

    Here is where the rubber meets the road,
    as many Americans don’t see birth-control as abortion (the pill, the IUD).

    Light on the candidates will be needed to help these voters know their positions.

  • Jenn

    And the significance of this debate over life begins at conception vs implantation cannot be overstated with the new HHS ruling that religious instituions will be required to provide “reproductive services” in their insurance plans. The left states boldly that pregancy doesn’t begin until implantation, therefore the morning after pill is not an antiabortificient because it’s said to only expell eggs not already implanted. The morning after pill is an abortion pill and now the Obama admin has decided that insurance must provide access to these abortion pills.

  • Justin F

    I agree that Newt’s position is probably more driven by appeasing his base then moral conviction, but I have to ask do we really need a candidate to pass a strict ideological test to be a good candidate? I think there is a danger on voting single issue (or dual issue as Denny also expresses concern on gay marriage). Wouldn’t it be better to have a candidate you agree with say 60-70% on a number of key issues, then a candidate who you agree with 100% on 1 issue and then they vote counter to your moral standard on everything else?

    Yes abortion, the gay marriage discussion, religion, and a candidate’s character are all important points to consider. But then what about those embryos who grow up and go to a school that is substandard in an impoverished, crime infested neighborhood? Do we ignore their situation? War, foreign policy, the economy, internet policy. All these are critical for our society as well, but get swept under the rug if you only focus on single issues.

    • D.J. Williams

      Rather than “single-issue,” I like the framework that John Piper has used of “front-door” issues. As in, there are many issues that are very important, but some issues are so important that if you get them wrong, you’re not getting through the front-door of my house to discuss them with me. We wouldn’t care how great a politician’s fiscal policy was if he wanted to re-institute slavery, for example. For me, it’s the same way with abortion, which denies not just freedom, but life to an entire class of people.

      • Paul

        your analogy is a non-starter. In order to re-institute slavery, we’d have to overcome a century and a half of agreement that it was a bad idea. We’d have to overturn a constitutional amendment, and we’d have to figure out exactly how we’d deal with states added since 1865 as to whether or not they’d be slave or free states. No party would be able to do all of that, and any state that wanted to do it would have better luck seceding than trying to start a grassroots movement. No matter how great a politician’s fiscal policy was, he’d never get donor dollar one, outside of a few white supremacist organizations. So, that candidate doesn’t exist.

      • Justin F

        The problem I have with this front door concept, is that the discussion seems to stop at the front door. As in over and over I hear these same issues being picked apart and repeated, and we don’t ever get to meaningful discussion of other issues. War is important, so is education, and so is poverty. These also have implications of life and death.

        The other problem is how perfect does the ideology have to be before you let the candidate in the front door? So Newt thinks life begins at a different point then some like Denny for example (since I don’t know DJ’s thoughts), but is still likely to vote pro-life on most issues to appease his base. Is this good enough to get him past the front door for consideration on other issues?

        • yankeegospelgirl

          I’ll try to keep myself calm here…

          War is important. Yep, sometimes you have to go out and beat the tar out of those badguys.

          So is education. Right. Which is why we should do away with pretty much every government program that’s been created on the subject, because it’s quite obvious that our public school systems don’t know a darn thing about education.

          So is poverty. Got a plan for eradicating that one in our lifetimes? Guarantee you it’s got nothing to do with government, anywhere.

          Abortion is pure, unadulterated murder, happening legally, within our own borders. Now THAT’S something we might be able to make some headway against with properly motivated leaders.

          • Justin F

            “War is important. Yep, sometimes you have to go out and beat the tar out of those badguys.” Not all of the enemy are “bad guys”, you can’t demonize everyone our army fights against as evil. Some are, but some are just fighting to defend their homeland the best they know how. Just like not all of our soldiers are good, some of them are evil and despicable. Plus I’m not saying no war here, I’m saying the decisions in war are life and death and need to be considered during elections.

            I’m really not sure what to say to your poverty and education “programs”. I don’t think you want to discuss these.

            As to abortion, my question is if the candidate doesn’t define abortion the same way you do, when do you say their views are good enough? Are we saying that “killing” a fertilized egg is the same as “killing” a 30 week pregnancy? Based on what are they equivalent? And so why do we think aborting the fertilized egg is wrong?

          • Paul

            I’ll agree with Justin on your very goofy concept of war. Calling everyone we fight bad guys takes away from the fact that we’ve been the bad guys at least three different times in the last 115 years, and we were an indirect cause of WWII through our stupid actions in WWI. So, yeah, lose the bad guy label, except during WWII and Afghanistan, where there truly were bad guys at work.

            re: your take on education: must be nice to sit in that seat of privilege, talking about how terrible public education is. Tell that to the folks that can’t afford private school. Tell that to the folks not in a position to home school. And at the higher ed level, I’d take any of the SUNY or UC schools over Wheaton, Biola, and hundreds of other schools. Sometimes, the “default” conservative position just isn’t the right one.

            re: your position on the eradication of poverty: you’re not wrong, but you’re not really right. The problem is that those on the right don’t care about poor people, and the politicians on the left want to keep them poor. But government subsidized job training is not a bad idea. Tax breaks to companies that open businesses in poor areas and draw from the local community for the employment base are a great idea. Tax breaks for companies that hire people that have gotten out of jail is also a great idea. And that would essentially be government subsidized eradication of poverty. Head Start is a great program that can, indirectly help with the eradication of poverty. The list goes on and on. But since the poor will never donate to a campaign, Gingrich doesn’t care about them. And since the poor almost always like populists, the Democrats don’t think it through and realize that the government that genuinely gives a hand up will have a faithful servant on its side forever. In this regard, to quote Shakespeare, a pox on both of their houses.

  • Don Johnson

    Obama is the most pro-abortion president in history. ANY of the GOP candidates would be more pro-life than that, some more than others. When my state comes up in the nomination process, assuming the nomination is not decided by then, exactly at that point I can make a choice among the remaining GOP candidates.

    The basic way to vote is to vote against the worst candidate as you see it, you do not need to like the candidate you are voting for as you are voting against someone worse.

  • Bob Lewis

    Duh? Gingrich and Santorum are professional politicians; meaning both are statists. They “believe” what their electoral constituents believe. But, bottom line, each seems persuaded Govt knows best. Give me Ron Paul, anyday, for whatever his weaknesses. At least his default position isn’t Government! Thank the Lord.

    • Paul

      I am frightened by anyone that hates the very thing they do for a living. This is why I don’t get the “government so small you can drown it in the bathtub” folks. If you hate the government so much, please, by all means, steer clear of it.

      • Paul

        He’s clearly principled in the social issues, I’ll grant Santorum that. However, it’s already proven that once in power, his principles go out the window.

        If Gingrich gets in, I genuinely believe that it’ll be game over for America as we know it (gets bellicose with the Chinese, who in turn call in their ownership of US debt and essentially buy us out). But it WILL be entertaining to watch until I have to move to Costa Rica or something.

        • Denny Burk

          Gingrich wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the general. What he’s doing now may have some appeal to GOP primary voters, but it would have no appeal at all to independents that he would have to win in November.

          • Matt Svoboda


            Why do you think that?

            Im a Ron Paul fan so I dont care about Gingrich, but I am curious why you think he has no chance in a general election?

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