An New Mexico event on the economy took a turn for the personal yesterday when a woman asked President Barack Obama about his Christian faith and views on abortion:
Q: One of them is basically — Mother Teresa answered it in an article and I was going to ask you the same because I loved her answer. The first one is: Why are you a Christian?
Second one is, there’s really no laws about the abortion law and when a woman can and can’t have an abortion, whether it’s two months or eight months, and what is your view on that?
President Obama: You know, I’m a Christian by choice. My family didn’t — frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church.
So I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.
And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.
And so that’s what I strive to do. That’s what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith. And it’s — but the one thing I want to emphasize, having spoken about something that obviously relates to me very personally, as President of the United States, I’m also somebody who deeply believes that the — part of the bedrock strength of this company is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith — that this is a country that is still predominantly Christian. But we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own. And that’s part of what makes this country what it is.
Now, with respect to the abortion issue, I actually think — I mean, there are laws both federal, state and constitutional that are in place. And I think that this is an area where I think Bill Clinton had the right formulation a couple of decades ago, which is abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I think that it’s something that all of us should recognize is a difficult, sometimes — oftentimes tragic situation that families are wrestling with.
I think the families and the women involved are the ones who should make the decision, not the government. But I do think actually that there are a whole host of laws on the books that after a certain period, the interests shift such that you can have some restrictions, for example, on late-term abortions, and appropriately so. So there is in fact a set of rules in place.
Now, people still argue about it and still deeply disagree about it. And that’s part of our — that’s part of our democratic way.