Thursday, August 21, 2008

Abortion At Saddlebrook Church, part 1

Following the forum he hosted at his Saddleback Church on August 16, 2008.Reverend Rick Warren recently gave an interesting, and revealing, interview to beliefnet.com on August 17, 2008. He was asked:

When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying 'it's above my pay grade.' Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?

And responded in part:

He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

Note that Obama did not maintain that determining whether abortion should be legal is "above my pay grade" but rather determining "when life begins." Nonetheless, Reverend Warren charged Obama with disingenuously claiming"'I don't know" on the most divisive issue in America." That issue would be the legal status of abortion rights, not when life begins.

There is a rough consensus among the American people as to when life begins. Belying most national polls, which generally find a pro-choice plurality (however small), most people believe life begins at conception. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll (the only I could find) taken July15-16, 2003 surveyed registered voters:

“Do you believe that human life begins at conception, or once the baby may be able to survive outside the mother's womb with medical assistance, or when the baby is actually born?”

At conception -55%
Survive outside womb-23%
At birth-13%
Not sure-%

None of these criteria is likely valid from a scientific standpoint. Gregg Easterbrook persuasively wrote in the New Republic article, "Abortion and Brain Waves, on January 31, 2000 "the hopeless confusing viability standard should be dropped in favor of a bright line drawn at the start of the third trimester, when complex fetal brain activity begins." The view that human life as we know it begins "at conception" is the furthest option from this understanding, and yet it is the most common in the country. This could be why Warren asked about the beginning of life- or rather, the even more emotionally charged, and slanted, " Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"

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