Obama: The "Sacred Responsibility" of Life

It is amazing how manipulative things get in the political arena. Even grammar is not safe from the whims of politicians and—to use a Jon Stewart-ism—the aggrandizement of "party hacks." Our case study today is Michelle Obama's statement about her husband's pro-choice stance: "He’ll protect a woman’s freedom of choice, because government should have no say in whether or when a woman embraces the sacred responsibility of parenthood."

I realize the finer disagreement here is the question of when life begins. If life does not begin at conception, then the pro-abortion position seeks to eliminate the possibility of parenthood before it is actualized. Thus, Mrs. Obama's statement holds some water. Given that set of true premises. On the flip side, if human life begins at conception, then the argument to end life before birth would not prevent any actualization of parenthood, which will already have been initialized in the very act of conception itself. Those are the two sides of the when-does-life-begin debate, with regard to the Obama statement.

My contention is that the statement itself—grammatically speaking—is not only illogical (in that it is an unsound argument), but is even verbally contradictory. The whole point of what Mrs. Obama is trying to get across, it seems, is that a "woman's freedom" is aimed at "sacred responsibility," one of which being parenthood. The choice to embrace this end, then, is in the mind of her husband undefiled by law, and by the government's ability to impose upon what is properly personal and individual to the woman in question. The important part, though, is that Michelle Obama identifies parenthood as sacred, and as a viable end toward which women rightly and justifiably seek to move.

The first question I'd ask Obama, if I had the chance to engage her in dialogue, would be to clarify her qualification of 'sacredness.' If she admitted to believing in some divinely appointed role of parenthood in the plan of universal salvation...well...story over. I think we can all infer how that argument would progress. However, if she means 'sacred' in the sense of what is truly proper to human nature in its fullest and most articulated expression, then we would have another situation entirely. Frankly, I propose that this is probably what she means here—regardless of her individual religious beliefs, whatever they may be. She was speaking, I think, from an anthropocentric viewpoint, common enough to the modern mindset, wherein she intended to demonstrate parenthood as one of the heights of the human experience.

The distinction I would like to make here is of an entirely philosophic nature, yet I believe it is important and quite evidently present in the very statement made by Mrs. Obama. It concerns the presupposition that parenthood can usher forth from pregnancy; I would even argue that it should. Pregnancy, by its nature, and as recognized by Obama's comment, indicates the potential for parenthood. If this were not so, the right to choose would not be sparing some from embracing the "sacred responsibility," but would rather be of a different nature altogether. If this is so, however, doesn't the possibility of a child become necessary in early pregnancy, if the potential for parenthood is present when abortion occurs? If being a 'parent' is directly codependent upon another's being 'son' or 'daughter,' then we can rightly infer that the potential for human life has been initiated at the point of conception—even if many disagree about when that animated life begins. Nevertheless, Michelle Obama's statement is not focused on determining the moment of animation, as we have previously established; it is focused on embracing "sacred responsibility," and nothing sacred can spontaneously be generated if not first in a state of potential, itself in some way sacred by virtue of its life-giving role.

I think it would be difficult for any mother to submit, and particularly one who loves her children, that the right to abortion does not violate something altogether sacred. Although Obama's statement does not seek to identify when life does or does not begin, by seeking to identify parenthood as something intimately linked to pregnancy, she therefore recognizes that the potential for life does exist, even at the most early stages of conception. Her thoughts as a mother are telling. Frankly, I think they betray a fundamental concept of life which is in conflict with her and her husband's outlook on abortion and the 'right to choose.' I am curious what others think of this, and to what extent other Catholics will latch onto her address in similar fashion...

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    # by Anonymous - September 2, 2008 at 7:19 PM

    Seen this ?
    Frankly mocking christianity...
    To imagine this guy in charge is really terrifying...

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    # by Andrew Haines - September 2, 2008 at 7:41 PM

    That link is quite unnerving. Just from the political point of view, I'm surprised he even ventured into such obviously precarious waters. Who was he speaking to in that clip? I can't imagine any audience whose population would have even agreed 75% with what he was saying. What I mean is that there are enough non-sola-scriptura folks out there that any audience would have been quite divided, I would think, by such an ignorant and presumptuous interpretation of Scripture.

    With such obviously deficient religious understanding as that, perhaps a stark separation of religious values and state policies would be better for an Obama administration than would any attempt to reconcile the two...