In another one of the “defining moments” from last weekend’s Saddleback forum (and yes, I promise this will be the last post on it), Pastor Warren asked each of the candidates “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”
Atrios cutely reframes the question by recalling Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s response to a similar query posed by Tim Russert on Meet The Press some years ago: “What are you asking? When does an embryo become ensouled?” Now that would have been a sharp comeback!
Unfortunately, Obama felt compelled to first point out the difference of opinion that exists depending on whether one was “looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective” (which led to the “pay grade” remark) and then launched into a rambling, err “thoughtful” discussion about the “moral and ethical dimensions” of the abortion issue.
Personally, I thought his response was just fine, if a little windy, but it was generally panned by the pundits and of course it most certainly didn’t go over well with the mainly evangelical audience. Many right-wing bloggers immediately seized on his remark that bringing specificity to the question of when life begins was “above my pay grade” — presumably because they viewed this as a craven abdication of responsibility, or maybe due to their inability to comprehend the notion that anything could possibly fall outside the ambit of presidential authority.
By contrast, McCain’s terse response to the question was, quite simply: “At the moment of conception.” Well, that’s just fine as a matter of religious dogma I suppose, but as Duncan points out:
Believe what you want, but the important question for politicians is how such things get translated into… policy. And when McCain says he believes life begins at conception (cheer!) it’s pretty meaningless unless he’s asked to explain how that would be translated into policy. Are blastocysts entitled to child support? Do all late periods need to be reported to the Ministry of Health? And, of course, my favorite: Are those who implant multiple embryos during IVF treatments, knowing full well that most will die, guilty of negligent manslaughter?
Most excellent questions and perhaps ones that should be kept in mind for future reference when dealing with our own home-grown fundamentalists and “fetus-fetishists” (you know WHO THEY ARE) in their neverending and utterly tiresome efforts to roll back the clock and have women’s reproductive rights curtailed or rescinded altogether in the name of God®.