By John Connolly

GRANTHAM, Pennsylvania, April 14, 2008 ( – Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both tried to downplay their positions on abortion at the Compassion Forum, a nationally televised event at Messiah College on April 13.

During the event, which was intended to provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on important issues, both candidates were questioned on religion, evolution and abortion, among other things.

Obama chose conciliatory wording for his abortion stance. “The mistake pro-choice forces have sometimes made in the past, and this is a generalization…has been to not acknowledge the wrenching moral issues involved,” he said. “And so the debate got so polarized that both sides tended to exaggerate the other side’s positions. Most Americans, I think, recognize that what we want to do is avoid, or help people avoid, making this difficult choice. That nobody is pro-abortion – abortions are never a good thing.”

Obama has tried to entice women voters away from Hillary through his strong stance on abortion, and promised last July that the first thing he would do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, nullifying any state’s law against abortion.

“This public statement shows how radical Senator Obama is on the subject of abortion and how out of step he is with the American public,” said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition. “For example, Senator Obama opposes a ban on Partial-Birth abortions. Every poll shows most Americans want that barbaric procedure overwhelmingly prohibited. Senator Obama, while an Illinois state senator, opposed legislation which would have prevented the killing of an infant that survived a late term abortion. He also recently said, while speculating on the issue if one his daughters became pregnant, that he would not ‘want them punished with a baby.’

“Senator Obama’s radical support of abortion and making it a top priority as President puts him in conflict with evangelicals and Catholics who support building a culture of life,” continued Rev. Mahoney. “This issue becomes even more focused during the Presidential campaign season and on the eve of the Pope’s visit to America. The Christian Defense Coalition intends to make Senator Obama’s embracing of abortion a major topic on the campaign trail.”

Hillary also tried to downplay her position on abortion and when life begins, admitting along the way that the stance of the Democratic party has been out of touch with religious voters.

“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.”

She also said she would “continue to do what I can to reduce the number of abortions.”

Obama was unable to give a positive answer on his views about when life begins at the forum.

“This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on,” he said. “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.”

See previous coverage:

Obama Declares He Doesn’t Want His Children “Punished with a Baby”

Obama: “Biggest Mistake” Was Vote to Help Terri Schiavo

“Philosopher of Abortion Movement” Says Obama A Better Choice than Hillary

Clinton to Obama: You’re not as Pro-Abortion as Me 

Biography Reveals Hillary Clinton Séance, Religious Devotion to Abortion