In a rare public dialogue about faith both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barak Obama were asked whether or not they believe life begins at conception. Clinton said:

“I believe the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said. “For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved. … I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, … 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.”

Obama said:

“This is something that I have not, I think, 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? … 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’s response is profoundly confusing to me. How, in one sense, can life begin at conception, and yet the value of that particular life is measured against the concerns and preferences of another individuals life. How does one determine that life in the womb, which Clinton openly acknowledges as a viable human being, is of less value than the preferences and desires of the one carrying that life in the womb, simply because the preferences and desires of life in the womb cannot be known in the same way as the mother carrying that life in her uterus? I suppose that Clinton would respond that the issue isn’t one of whether or not the unborn are valuable, but that the desires of the one responsible for carrying and nurture that lunborn life supercede the right to life of the unborn because culturally we value “rights” more than we value morality.  Furthermore, how can Clinton honestly champion abortion rights under the premise that abortions remain rare when over 6 million children have been aborted since abortion was declared legal in 1973.

I actually find Obama’s response less disingenous than Clinton’s simply because he is willing to stake his pro-choice position on the fact that he doesn’t know (and are we to assume doesn’t care) when life begins.  I guess if one remains ignorant of when life begins than it is easy to argue for the rights of women to choose over the rights of the unborn.