Joe Biden Quizzed on Abortion, Won’t Tell Others When Human Life Begins

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 8, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Joe Biden Quizzed on Abortion, Won’t Tell Others When Human Life Begins

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 8
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — After Barack Obama admitted he didn’t know and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the Catholic Church has changed its position, Joe Biden took his turn at answering the question of when human life begins.

But Biden wouldn’t give an answer for society — saying he would only say when he thought life begins for his own political views.

"Look, I know when it begins for me,” Biden said on the MSNBC program “Meet the Press.”

Tom Brokaw set up the question by talking about his interview with Pelosi and referring to the comments Barack Obama made during the faith forum at Saddleback Church, in which he said the question was “above my pay grade.”

“If Senator Obama comes to you and says, ‘When does life begin? Help me out here, Joe,’ as a Roman Catholic, what would you say to him?” Brokaw asked.

“I’d say, ‘Look, I know when it begins for me,’” he said. “It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church.”

However, Biden said he would have no problem departing from Catholic teaching that human life begins at conception and abortion is morally wrong.

“But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths – Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others – who have a different view,” he told the program. “They believe in God as strongly as I do. They’re intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life.”

Biden went further and gave the kind of “personally opposed, but” answer that has upset pro-life advocates and Catholic leaders with a politician saying abortion is wrong but unwilling to do anything about it by turning those beliefs into policy.

“I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment,” he said. “For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

Brokaw tried to point out the hypocrisy with taking a position that life begins at conception and failing to support sensible limits on abortion.

“But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you’ve also voted for abortion rights,” Brokaw said.

Biden replied, “No, what I voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that’s the reason I haven’t.”

Biden eventually retreated to the standard pro-abortion rhetoric.

“This is a matter between a person’s God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves,” Biden said.

Biden said politicians should instead be focused on “making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.”

Presidential hopeful John McCain was clear and precise in his answer to the question at the Saddleback faith forum.

"At the moment of conception," McCain answered.


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