Obama and Clinton on When Life Begins

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were asked a number of tough questions at a recent event called the “Compassion Forum,” hosted by CNN’s Campbell Brown and Newsweek’s Jon Meacham. Meacham asked the candidates if life begins at conception. Here are their responses:

OBAMA: This is something that I have not 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.

CLINTON: 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. And, therefore, I have concluded, after great concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, that our task should be in this pluralistic, diverse life of ours in this nation that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.

These answers demonstrate the muddle behind much pro-abortion thinking. Neither candidate knows whether or not life begins at conception. One would think, therefore, that their position on abortion would be a cautious one. After all, why would a candidate support the right to kill a being that even might be human life? Yet Obama and Clinton support the right to abortion, nevertheless. Moral confusion reigns among the pro-abortion candidates.


Other questions include the following. Obama was asked what he would tell his children if they asked whether God created the universe in six days. Clinton was asked why she thinks “a loving God allows innocent people to suffer.”

Michael Foust at the Baptist Press has the story. Read the rest here:

“Obama, Clinton silent on when life begins” – by Michael Foust (Baptist Press)

Here’s a transcript of the entire event:

Transcript of the Compassion Forum


  • Joshua

    Not supporting what Hillary said, but at least she gave a half-way decent answer, and was honest. Obama doesn’t even know, I think.

    Like I’ve always said, I find interesting that we can cure many diseases, supposedly say that the earth is millions of years old, but we can’t tell when life begins in a mothers womb? Please. Its denial.

  • Brett

    Wow, I didn’t know conservative evangelicals were the only ones to know the answers to these tough questions and everybody else is immoral, in denial, and biased. If only all of America were conservative evangelicals….

  • Paul

    I will say that in the case of abortion, it IS a case of denial. And this is coming from a liberal.

    Because either it’s not a child until birth, at which point, science, which is held so dear by us liberals, goes out the window, or it’s a child at conception, at which point, you’re definitely killing something that did nothing to deserve being killed.

    And I think that’s why so many on the Christian left really have problems with this issue. Because it’s not so cut and dry. Women have been getting abortions almost as long as they’ve been able to conceive. They haven’t always been legal, and they’ve almost always been dangerous. But therein lies your problem. A woman who wants to have an abortion so badly as to put her own life seriously at risk (as is the case in many back alley abortions) is not going to worry about what the law says. At least under the current system, there’s only one life being put at risk. I know it sounds callous, and I like it about as much as you do, but people need to look at ALL of the angles of a situation before slamming someone for being pro-choice.

    Becoming a parent puts a whole new slant on this whole thing for me. Before, it was a civil liberties issue, cut and dry. Now, it’s so much more convoluted than that.

  • scott

    Why is abortion seen as a civil liberties issue but prostitution is not?

    It seems to me, in this great nation, we should have the civil liberty to pay someone for sex. No one is hurt or killed, so why should the government get involved?

    It is not so clear to me that killing one’s child (or potential child?) is a civil liberty.

  • Joshua

    Brett that wasn’t what I meant by what I said. But you are correct in that is how one might see that. I apologize for that.

  • Paul


    re: civil liberties…you’re absolutely right. Not only should prostitution be legalized, but drugs should be legalized too. Regulate them both, and you’ve just cut the heads off of the gangs and pimps and made tons of tax dollars in the process.

    insofar as abortion goes, that’s just what I’m getting at. Before one has a child of one’s own, it’s really easy to see this as an easy matter of choice. But once you hold your child, look at him or her and instantly love them, then you suddenly wonder how someone could snuff that out so easily. This debate is one that conflicts me daily.

  • Jesica

    Just a side note….

    I was finishing our taxes a few days ago, and had a question that Turbo Tax couldn’t answer..so I went to irs.gov to review some tax regulations.

    When searching allowable deductions, guess what came up first on the list?!

    Yep. Abortion.

    Not only is it legal to have one in our country, but it’s also legal to write the cost of it off on one’s taxes!!!!!!!


  • Paul


    he didn’t need to. We know where he stands, and at that point, it’s far more interesting to see how someone comes to their conclusions. Where he misspoke is in saying “I haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” because he obviously has.

    At least Hillary tried (not saying she succeeded, mind you) to balance her faith and her pro-choice stance.

  • Chris

    So Brett, tell me, what do you think is a more dangerous position to hold: the certain and biased belief that life begins at conception and therefore we should guard the sanctity of life, or the uncertain and uncommitted view about the issue which therefore finds abortion allowable?

    Which view poses the most threat to society?

  • Lucas Knisely

    Like I said, Paul… he didn’t answer the question. And sure, you may know where he stands… But the point of broadcasting a forum where candidates are asked questions is that they answer them with the purpose of informing the public of where they stand. If Senator Obama wants to be the President of the United States then he should cut the shenanigans and start shooting straight. I’m not trying to bleed McCain, but he will shred him for this type of non-answer answering.

  • jeremy z

    Denny are we done talking about the abortion subject? We get it.

    I am sorry to inform you, but abortions will still happen in the USA regardless who is in office. Think about it. Bush is in office and has the abortion policy changed? Last time I checked a woman can go to the clinic to get the procedure done.

    There are too many non-believers out there who clearly see an abortion as a great option. And for the church to keep screaming at them is not helping the pro-life campaign.

    How about we talk about how confused ultra conservatives will be when Obama gets in office?

  • Paul


    this country is too sad to ever elect anything but a white male who claims to love God but never acts like it into office.

    That Barack’s middle name is Hussein just means that Obama will be the first Democratic presidential nominee since I’ve been alive to get less than 40% of the vote.

    And in that regard, I’d like to thank the Democratic Party for being so eager to “make history” in this election cycle that we’ll see McCain in making things even worse for at least four more years. Great.

  • Kris

    Ms Clinton stated:
    “…But for me, it is also not only about a potential life —

    ‘it is about the other lives involved’.

    And, therefore, I have concluded, after great concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, that our task should be in this pluralistic, diverse life of ours in this nation that

    ‘individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision’,

    because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.”

    WOW. Don’t really understand how a person can logically make this statement.

    Let me make a similiar statement;
    But for me it is not only about a potential life but the quality of life a person may have. So after many years of searching my own soul, I have concluded that each individual must be entrusted to make the profound decision to spare an Autistic child from a less than normal life by euthenasia. Much less the unfair burdened life of a parent who must take care of the child.

  • Paul


    you don’t understand Hillary’s quote because you’re on the other side of the argument. Unfortunately, when it comes to matters of morality (like this) or perceived morality (say, gay marriage), the two sides NEVER seek out each other’s viewpoints, or even give them credibility.

    There is always a need for rational dialogue in these matters, and yet no one ever seems to be willing to come forward and be part of that dialogue. Instead, everyone likes to stay safe in their bunkers tossing out hand grenades (in this case, stating that abortion rights and killing autistic kids is one and the same).

  • Caleb

    Paul, I am assuming that you think that killing autistic kids is different than performing an abortion. Would you please explain that difference?
    For there to be a difference, there would have to be a difference between the two in being, in what they are, but both groups are equally part of the human family (an autistic child is just as human as a child that hasn’t been born).

  • Paul


    I assume no such thing. However, it is not unfair to say that equating the two when trying to discuss views on abortion as they apply to, ahem, “people of faith” is not unlike the political discussions which quickly turn to the lefties calling the righties fascists and nazis and the righties calling the lefties communists. As a matter of fact, it’s the same kind of flamethrowing tactic that practically ensures the end of civil dialogue.

  • Josh Orr

    I think it is rather ignorant to look at either of these candidates as merely pro-life or pro-choice but to look at how they handle how to logically legislate moral decisions such as abortion.
    It is weird to me that we are so quick to be in such favor of life when it comes to abortion but not when it comes to war or death penalty. While I am in no way saying that I agree with abortion I do think there is a weird line in how to legislate it.
    If a woman who is raped have an abortion? If yes, then will she have to claim rape and press charging then making every guy who has a one night stand end up in jail for a rape he didn’t commit. If no, do you think that is justice either?

  • Matt Svoboda


    I really appreciate some of the things you have to say on this blog. Although sometimes it seems that you really are just trying to ‘pick a fight’ or be the devils advocate. I could be wrong, you could have deep sincere convictions for everything that you say. I am not sure where to nail you down at…(although it is obvious you are atleast a little more liberal than most here)

    On this particular issue something about there answers do worry me… As Christians when we are faced with a theological issue that the Bible isn’t really clear about aren’t we to be gracious and extra cautious to that issue? In the same way should Obama and Clinton not be extra cautious to not kill a life if they are not sure when life begins? I can’t say I know when exactly life begins, but I would rather be safe and above reproach before God than try to please people and go with majority rule… What say you?

  • Brett


    I’m sorry if I sometimes come across as though I’m trying to pick a fight. Many times my goal is to try and get the conservative, reformed, republican crowd to see the other side of these issues and not just assume that all who don’t think like them or agree with them are ignorant, ill-informed, immoral liberals. I could say some things in a nicer way, but oftentimes I type before I think and my first response is anger. I’m mainly like this b/c I used to be very much like this and think the same way. I’m not saying that I’m now “enlightened” or anything, but over time I have come to view things from different angles and not give the same ol arguments…and yes, sometimes I may just be playing devil’s advocate to get the ball rollin. However, I do also have deep sincere convictions about most of what I say. I do mainly because of the amount of people I’ve seen completely turned off from the church or Christianity in general b/c of some of the beliefs, attitudes, and words some of my brothers and sisters in Christ say. In fact Matt, I’m not sure where to nail myself down at either! Of course I would be considered liberal by many on here, but to an actual “liberal” I would hardly be considered liberal at all

    I would answer that “yes” we are to be gracious and cautious to an issue the Bible isn’t really clear about. But shouldn’t we also be gracious and cautious and tone down the rhetoric towards the other side as well since the Bible isn’t cut and dry on this issue? I personally believe that life begins at conception, but if we’re looking for a “biblical” answer then it will be tough to find. Conservatives tend to make people like Obama and Clinton look like immoral, unethical monsters who want to kill babies b/c they think they know the answers to these tough questions and think “the other side” is possessed by demons or something.

    I personally wish that they did believe that life began at conception…simply because I believe this way. I would rejoice if Roe v. Wade were overturned, I’m just not optimistic and don’t think that’s the problem Christians should be worrying about. I would love to see Christians lay down their desires and lives and offer to adopt every single baby where the mother is considering abortion…but we just keep putting our hope in having a law overturned.

    I agree with your logic, but I do believe it is subjective and a matter of conscience. I wish the Bible was more clear on many issues, but it’s simply not.

    I’d like to hear from you more Matt. I’m actually very surprised a Boyce student is so candid, non-dogmatic, and open to dialog about these issues. I know you’re probably the minority up around Louisville! I can tell you’re conservative, but I would be willing to bet that your friends call you liberal! Good to hear from you.

  • Matt Svoboda


    “But shouldn’t we also be gracious and cautious and tone down the rhetoric towards the other side as well since the Bible isn’t cut and dry on this issue?”

    yes, we should. I agree 100%, but that didn’t answer the question. The question is what should be done on the issue, not how should we respond to those disagree. Christians should act like Christians. We ought to be a people of grace and compassion, but not so far as to forsake truth and convictions!

    I disagree with Clinton and Obama because they are not graciously cautious with the issue! But that does not mean that I should be a crude ass to them. (Denny, can I say ass?)

    hahahaha… yes my friends do jokingly call me a liberal, but they know that I am not truly one. I am quite conservative theologically, but politically I think all Christians should be independent, in a non-legalistic way!

  • Kris

    Thanks Paul,

    If Hillary’s statement is logical, then I don’t understand her.

    I don’t care if ‘gay’ persons marry, in the sense that I don’t care if it is legal or not. Condoning the taking an “innocent” life by reason of illogical arguments only leads to more depravity, like taking the life of an autistic person because of the quality of life expected.

    I wish Denny would post the recording a person strictly donating to Planned Parenthood for abortions of minorities.
    They think this has some virtue. If you heard it you would shutter.

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