Obama: My Answer on Abortion at Saddleback Church was Too Flip

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., expressed regret at his answer on abortion at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church a couple weekends ago.

"At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Warren asked.

"I think that, whether you’re looking at it from the theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade," Obama said -- an answer that offended some people.

"Was that phrase too flip?" Stephanopoulos asked Obama today.

"Probably," Obama said. "Yes. I mean, 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 goes back to Augustine," Stephanopoulos interjected.

"It does," Obama said. "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. 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."


Speaking of this debate, on Meet the Press last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was asked about Obama's answer, and she ignited a firestorm of criticism among Catholic officials with her response.

"As an ardent practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time," Pelosi said. "And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have impact on a woman’s right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child, first trimester, certain considerations second trimester, not so third trimester, there’s very clear distinct, this isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors that a woman has to make with her doctor and her God. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins."

Pelosi said the "Catholic Church, for centuries, has been discussing this."

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, begged to differ.

"The Catholic Church, from its first days, condemned the aborting of unborn children as gravely sinful," George wrote in a statement. "Not only Scripture's teaching about God's protection of life in the womb (consider the prophets and the psalms and the Gospel stories about John the Baptist and Jesus himself in Mary's womb) but also the first century catechism (the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) said: 'You shall not slay the child by abortions. You shall not kill what is generated.' The teaching of the Church was clear in a Roman Empire that permitted abortion. This same teaching has been constantly reiterated in every place and time up to Vatican II, which condemned abortion as a 'heinous crime.' This is true today and will be so tomorrow. Any other comments, by politicians, professors, pundits or the occasional priest, are erroneous and cannot be proposed in good faith."

- jpt

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