Obama says pointed abortion query “above his pay grade”

August 17, 2008

DALLAS – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama side-stepped a pointed query about abortion on Saturday by “mega-pastor” Rick Warren during a televised forum.


Asked at what point a baby gets “human rights,” Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: “… whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question  with specificity … is above my pay grade.”

He went on to reiterate his view that it was important to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who followed Obama onto the stage of the nationally televised event, was more blunt and more emphatic.

He said a baby’s human rights began “at the moment of conception … I have a 25-year pro-life record.”

Both candidates were vying for the “faith vote,” in particular the one in four U.S. adults who count themselves as evangelical.

Obama took questions first from Warren and McCain followed. The two shared the stage together briefly.

Some centrist evangelicals have said they appreciate moves by the Democratic Party to “soften” the edges of its pro-choice stand by stressing the need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions — and by also working harder in areas like adoption.

But for many conservative evangelicals — a key part of the evangelical base — life begins at conception and the argument ends there.

The issue remains one of the most divisive and partisan in America — as Obama and McCain highlighted on Warren’s stage.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason)

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook, Files, USA)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

freestater, killing innocent boys and girls in the womb is wrong, and that truth is not above anyone’s pay grade. It was not above Obama’s pay grade to speak up forcefully against giving Live Born Children any medical care, when he fought against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.

The founders DID speak up on this issue, when they said that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

So we have the right to Life. Human babies who get their oxygenated blood through the umbilical cord have just as much right to Life as human babies who are born, breathing, getting their oxygenated blood through their own lungs, and crying in a dirty closet as Obama ignores them and denies them medical care.

The problem came when 5 elite judges in black robes tried to impose their beliefs on killing the unborn on the rest of us. They overstepped their bounds as judges, and took on the role of the legislative branch. The least we can do is correct this mistake and put things back the way they were, as the founders intended. Then, if a majority of the American people want to put in place a constitutional amendment that allows the killing of unborn or born children, they can do that…the process in in the constitution (see Article V).

Let’s say some liberal radicals slipped through a Supreme Court ruling that said it was OK to kill your spouse, as long as you used really clean surgical instruments and you had a good reason, like they would inconvenience your life in some way.

In that case, you could make the same argument–”some matters are SO DEEPLY PERSONAL that they belong solely to the woman involved to determine with HER family, HER clergy and HER health care providers, whether she should kill her spouse or not. That conversation is above my paygrade, because HER politician, not even HER President should be imposing THEIR sense of what’s best for her in such a profoundly personal situation. After all, who are we to tell this woman she can’t kill her spouse? Get your government hands off my kitchen butcher knife.”

Because when you look at it, is a 40 year old human American man any different than a 3 hour old human American baby boy? They both are alive, they both breath air, they both feel pain. Why is it OK for Obama to deny medical care and let one die, but not the other? If that is the case, then why should we allow people to cut up growing babies in the womb who feel pain?

Society, through the government and laws, imposes our beliefs on people all the time. We believe you should not kill your spouse. We have laws against it, we impose our beliefs on others. We believe you should not starve your children or deny them medical care or food. We impose our beliefs on people and take away their children if they are found to be physically harming the child or denying them food, shelter and care.
But when it comes to the most vulnerable, the most innocent of children, we turn our backs and allow people with sharp medical knifes to cut them up and remove the pieces. And we allow Barry Obama to deny them medical care after they are born alive.

Posted by Tom Paine | Report as abusive

McCain claims he would rather lose an election than lose a war, a noble cause, but Obama would rather lose a campaign by telling the truth than win on a campaign of lies. Obama/Biden our best bet for truth.

Posted by ingramris | Report as abusive

To “Joe Biden: “If Republicans care so much about kids with birth defects,why not support stem-cell research?” « Joshua Kidd”

I don’t understand this quote. Of course we care about kids with birth defects. We, unlike Obama and the Democrats, do not think we should kill a baby just because he or she is not perfect.

So why should that justify killing other children, who are at their most vulnerable point in life, a growing human embryo?

I just don’t understand the logic there: “We care about special needs kids so we should kill other kids”

Now on to ingramris. You are correct, McCain would rather lose an election than lose a war, because McCain thinks about Country First. Did you see his convention speech? If not, review the transcript or watch the video here: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News  /Speeches/ef046a10-706a-4dd5-bd01-b93b3 6b054bc.htm

McCain used to be selfish and self-centered like Obama and Biden. But McCain’s time in the North Vietnamese prison camp changed him. He now works for a cause greater than his self interest. He loves America, and he and Sarah Palin have a proven record of fighting corruption and waste in government, something we a Christians can support.

Then, inexplicably, you go on to say “Obama would rather lose a campaign by telling the truth than win on a campaign of lies”. What are you talking about here? Obama’s whole campaign is a lie. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007, according to the non-partisan National Journal’s 27th annual vote ratings. Obama shifted further to the left last year in the run-up to the primaries, after ranking as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate.

Now he is trying to lie to the American people that he will cut their taxes, he cares about America and will protect us, and somehow he is a “Christian” even though he fought hard to make sure Live Born Infants did not get any medical care that would save their lives.

How in the world is that “truth”?

Posted by Tom Paine | Report as abusive

Lies, deception and the sexist card Played in presidential race without regard To the truth for a people and country as a whole Hence, “the McCain Campaign” as the story unfolds Vote “Obama/Biden

Posted by ingramris | Report as abusive

Mr. Obama shows the weakness in his person and admits his vivid understanding of life begining at conception which is undeniable and completely obvious to everyone by hiding behind the pay grade comment. This is a stark and complete revelation to us that his entire judgement and willingness to act morally corrupt in the face of all truth is confirmed. God save all the innocent people he may be directly responcible for condeming to death.

To ingramris:

I agree, Obama played the sexist card without regard for the truth when he, in a very un-Christian manner, called Sarah Palin a “pig”.

Now he has the audacity to deny it and he also refuses to apologize. The more Obama opens his mouth and tries to bash Sarah Palin, the more women and men jump to the McCain/Palin side, recoiling in disgust at Obama.

Posted by Tom Paine | Report as abusive

Oh please, that’s not what he meant and you know it. I’m voting for McCain, but for other reasons. A woman has a right to their own body, it is their decision and no one else’s. He’s at least respecting that much. A couple has sex, the woman gets pregnant, the man has another girlfriend on the side and leaves his unborn child with it’s mother. Who got out of this situation easily? A woman gets raped and never sees that man again but gets pregnant, who’s left with all the responsibility’s when she was completely against it? A woman should be the one to decide what goes on her life and how her life should be directed, not a man. Obama said the right thing. Then people talk about other people in poverty, on medical/medicaid, welfare, food stamps. etc. AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU DON’T take money out of your paychecks to feed others do you, to wash others, to put shelter over their heads. Unless you completely know and understand where you are coming from and where the other people are coming from you can’t DOGG on Obama for saying something he knows isn’t a question for him to decide. SHEESH!! (And to what McCain said, conception is the beginning of life, well that may be true to some, but to those who can afford it, it makes it easier to be against abortion.) Think about the life the child is going to have if the mother can’t afford it, foster care system, abused by strangers, being a reject in today’s society because of where they come from, because you must’ve heard that America is a materialistic country and if you don’t got it, you better move for those who do. This is the stupidest fight abortion or not. It’s not a freaking arguement and it’s up to nobody to decide. the decision is up to the woman and/or it depends on the situation. Leave Obama Alone!

Posted by Lyn | Report as abusive

Wow Lyn, you make so many mistakes I hardly know where to start. I guess we’ll take them one by one.

First of all, Obama, in a very un-Christian manner, called Sarah Palin a “pig”. Now he has the audacity to deny it and he also refuses to apologize. The more Obama opens his mouth and tries to bash Sarah Palin, the more women and men jump to the McCain/Palin side, recoiling in disgust at Obama.

Obama tried these type of sexist attacks against Hillary, and the Democrats fell for it and voted for Obama. We as Americans are not going to fall for the same old Barry bashing of women.

Then you make the non-nonsensical argument that somehow, a woman should be able to pay a male or female doctor to snuff out the life of a growing baby in the womb. The babies are both boys and girls, so both boys are girls are affected when they are killed by the abortionists knife and suction tube.

Your next mistake was to mistakenly say “PEOPLE LIKE YOU DON’T take money out of your paychecks to feed others do you”. Unfortunately you don’t know that I give tens of thousands to my church, who helps the poor and downtrodden, and I give tens of thousands more on my own to help the poor. Jesus tells us that the poor will always be with us, but he never said the poor always have to remain the same people. In America, people have the equality of opportunity to get a good education (unless the liberals stay in charge of failing public schools and don’t let parents and kids choose their own schools) and move up in life.
The problem with Obama is, he is elite and snobbish, he thinks only HE can decide best how to help people. So, he wants to increase taxes on working Americans, confiscate more of our money by force, and re-distribute the hard-earned wealth of Americans to other Americans. This is wrong. Americans know our taxes are already too high, and we also know we can spend, save and contribute to good causes with our own money. We don’t need the messiah Obama deciding for us.

Then you say “onception is the beginning of life, well that may be true to some”

True to “some”? No, those baby boys and girls are living, they feel pain, they have a right to life. Not just “to some”.

Then you try to justify cutting up a baby girl or boy who feels pain in the womb, and sucking out the remains, just on the outside chance that “if the mother can’t afford it, foster care system, etc, etc.”.

So you really want to stick with that? If a child might not have the best life, might have to spend some time in foster care, you think it’s better for them to just kill them?

This also repeats the canard that somehow we don’t care about babies after they are born. Statistics show that Americans care deeply about babies, we adopt them, we pay money to help them, we bend over backwards to help them. Even so, the chance that someone’s life might not be perfect is no reason to allow you to kill them.

Then you go off on a rant, “This is the stupidest fight abortion or not. It’s not a freaking arguement and it’s up to nobody to decide”.

Really? What about Obama’s strong fight to make sure new born babies don’t get medical care, instead they are left to die. Is that “up to nobody to decide” too? Well Obama decided when he was in the Illinois Senate. He decided against the Live Born Baby. Where does this infanticide stop? So Obama is against saving 10 minute old babies. How about 1 hour? Should we step in and “decide for life” then? Or are we intruding on the mothers desire to kill the baby. How about 1 week? 1 month? 18 years?

I will leave Obama alone when he leaves the new born babies alone.

Posted by Tom Paine | Report as abusive

To find out when a fetus gets human rights see http://www.sentforlife.com/abortion.html

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Oh my god, so Obama decided he didn’t want to get into an argument with a mega-pastor who clearly has different views then him.

The president is the highest pay grade? Bush thinks that, which is why he doesn’t listen to advice. Which is why nothing has been done about the environment, the economy, etc.

I think it’s pretty clear Obama is pro-choice, so you’re slamming him for not getting into a televised argument with a religious fanatic.

So if someone comes and knocks on your door to share their views with you, do you welcome them into your home and look forward to the discussion?

Posted by Aegis | Report as abusive

Obama made it clear: he is pro-choice.

Read the article, not the sensationalized headline.

Posted by Longtimer | Report as abusive

Here’s my thought on things… I do not agree with abortion past the first trimester. If the fetus can survive outside the womb then the government can call it murder. However if it can’t survive then the government should have no say in the matter. Its a personal decision… No one else’s! I have no problem with Christians letting pregnant women know about their options, but if a woman decides to have an abortion then leave her alone! She obviously has thought about it.

Posted by Ashley | Report as abusive

i’m a doctor. i am pro abortion (i dont know why people have to say pro choice) as most doctors and anyone who has any real knowledge of the statistics and the real world does.
i believe in capital punishment as well. so i am not a hypocrite unlike most prolifers and prochoicers. (capital punishment and abortion go hand in hand – think about it)
if someone is going to break into your house and ruin your life, you should have the right to defend yourself. that is the castle law in texas (look it up).
likewise, if you are a woman and someone rapes you and their resultant fetus is going to ruin the rest of your life in the future as some unwanted children do, why not abort???? (this is the basis of roe vs wade – look it up)
i am happy to be in this country where you have freedom of choice. freedom to defend yourself from burglars invading your home and also from rapists invading your womb.
just follow the laws of this country and if you dont like them, guess what? you also have the freedom to move to another country. (like mexico, which does not believe in capital punishment and limits abortion)

Posted by texan joe | Report as abusive

I have a daughter with special needs – Partial Trisomy 13. As a result, I have met many families with surviving children who have Trisomy 13 (including those with the Full chromosome “triplicated”). Almost all of them were told they needed to seek an abortion. Many who insisted on carrying to term were advised (even pressured, sometimes relentlessly) to seek no care beyond comfort measures for their child after birth, even when all conditions present were considered to be highly treatable. My daughter is now a young adult who can walk, talk, read, write, and calculate. Her first few years were rough, but she has been such a blessing in the life of our family. I could never vote for someone who has so little respect for human life that he would allow a baby who has already endured the suffering of being prematurely enduced to lie comfortless until death. Obama’s socialist views regarding the medical field will lead to even more of this type of behavior. I have a Canadian friend whose live-born T-13 infant (who had few signs of T-13, none of them visible) was murdered at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children by being given a huge overdose of meds and was then left to die, because one of the doctors signed a DNR order for my friend’s baby. (My friend has proof!) My friend had left the hospital briefly to check on her other children at home and get more clothes, as she had not been home in days. The baby had actually been at home and had developed a respiratory problem which required rehospitalization.

Posted by Glenda | Report as abusive

I admit that I have been at odds about which candidate to vote for. And, in the weeks prior to today I had completely written off BOTH of these men. Thinking to myself “Out of all the people in the United States…and THESE TWO were the best that we could come up with???” I mean, COME ON! I was and still may be ready to give up my precious right to vote out of protest. Protest is the only thing I can call it…But, one more thing has come to my attention, the fact the Obama is pro-choice. This cannot be tolerated by someone who wants to occupy the highest position in the U.S. To disregard human life at one of its most vulnerable times, is obscene. Can you think of another time in one’s life when you are the most vulnerable??? (When you grow older and cannot care for yourself?) May God help us all…….and our country.

Oh yeah, PS…I also believe our country should step up on capital punishment. (It’s in the BIBLE, look it up!)

I am amazed at how many “abortion debates” completely overlook and fail to discuss the underlying social problems impacting this issue. This is not an issue of right or wrong, winning or losing. This is an issue of compassion for all of our brothers and sisters and of helping one another. Morality can not be legislated, it must be empowered!

Of course the baby has human rights starting at the point of conception. The point is, since the baby doesn’t have the ability to voice their opinion at that time(which if they did I’m pretty sure they would say to keep them alive) the mother is in charge of that. But instead, she just gives the doctors the go ahead to kill it. Who ever gave us women the right to murder? If some random person kills an innocent life, they’re gonna go to jail for their actions. What’s the difference with abortion? I don’t get how people are for abortion because it’s the murder of an innocent life. You could be killing the next president. The justice system clearly says that no one has the right to murder when they put away serial killers but when it comes to abortion, it’s completely okay to take away a life. No one wants to take responsibility for their own actions. They want to be able to bring pleasure to themselves but when it comes to the woman getting pregnant, they want nothing to do with it. People don’t want to take accountability for anything these days.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Obama is more sympathetic and he is amazing and such a motivational speaker. He brings hope :]]

Posted by KMM | Report as abusive

Several people have responded to my comments. The problem with their comments is that they assume that if fetuses were persons this would mean the state could legitimately force women to be physically attached to them. But the state has no legitimate power to force women to be physically attached to any person. Indeed, a state with the power to physically attach one person to another person would be the very essence of tyranny.

A state that legalizes 1.2 million homicides a year is not a “tyranny” against the pre-born?

Posted by student | Report as abusive

Did the media protect President Obama or abortion?

Posted by student | Report as abusive