Q&A: Barack Obama
For many evangelicals, abortion is a key, if not the key factor in their vote. You voted against banning partial birth abortion and voted against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. What role do you think the President should play in creating national abortion policies?
I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it's very important to start with that premise. I think people recognize what a wrenching, difficult issue it is. I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren't expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.
Our goal should be to make abortion less common, that we should be discouraging unwanted pregnancies, that we should encourage adoption wherever possible. There is a range of ways that we can educate our young people about the sacredness of sex and we should not be promoting the sort of casual activities that end up resulting in so many unwanted pregnancies.
Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say the state can legitimately say that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there's an exception for the mother's health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn't have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don't think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.
You've talked about your experience walking down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ, and kneeling beneath the cross, having your sins redeemed, and submitting to God's will. Would you describe that as a conversion? Do you consider yourself born again?
I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.
There is one thing that I want to mention that I think is important. Part of what we've been seeing during the course of this campaign is some scurrilous e-mails that have been sent out, denying my faith, talking about me being a Muslim, suggesting that I got sworn in at the U.S. Senate with a Quran in my hand or that I don't pledge allegiance to the flag. I think it's really important for your readers to know that I have been a member of the same church for almost 20 years, and I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it's not my own. One of the things that's very important in this day and age is that we don't use religion as a political tool and certainly that we don't lie about religion as a way to score political points. I just thought it was important to get that in there to dispel rumors that have been over the Internet. We've done so repeatedly, but obviously it's a political tactic of somebody to try to provide this misinformation.