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Clinton, Obama quizzed on life's beginning at Pennsylvania college forum


Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., leaves the stage as Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., begins his time participating in a Compassion Forum at Messiah College, in Grantham, Pa., on Sunday. <br> <img src=> <b><font color=red>AP VIDEO</b></font color=red>: <a href=""target="_blank "><b>Obama Hits Back, Defends Bitter Comment</b></a> <br> <img src=> <b><font color=red>LIVE VIDEO</b></font color=red>: <a href=""target="_blank "><b>Sen. McCain (10:30 a.m.); Sen. Obama (1:30 p.m.)</b></a>

Carolyn Kaster / AP Enlarge

GRANTHAM, Pa. - Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the potential for life begins at conception as she and presidential rival Sen. Barack Obama answered questions about faith and religion in both their personal lives and the public discourse.

The two candidates appeared separately at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa., in a forum devoted to religion. Pennsylvania holds its primary on April 22.

Mrs. Clinton was asked whether life begins at conception - which opponents of abortion contend is a reality that makes any termination of a pregnancy the ending of a life.

"I believe the potential for life begins at conception," Mrs. 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."

The New York senator added that abortion should remain legal, safe, and rare.

Asked whether life begins at conception, Mr. Obama said he didn't know the answer.

"This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. 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."

The two met as Mrs. Clinton left the stage and Mr. Obama took her place.

The moment of pleasantries and handshakes belied days of angry accusations between the two over Mr. Obama's comments about bitter voters in small towns.

Earlier, Mr. Obama lashed out at Mrs. Clinton, mocking her vocal support for gun rights and saying her record in the Senate and as first lady belied her stated commitment to working-class voters and their concerns.

"She knows better. Shame on her," Mr. Obama told an audience at a union hall in Steelton, Pa.

The Democratic llinois senator has spent three days on the defensive after comments he made at a San Francisco fund-raiser were disclosed that suggested working-class people are bitter about their economic circumstances and "cling to guns and religion" as a result.

Mr. Obama reiterated his regret for his choice of words at the fund-raiser, but suggested they had been twisted.

Then, laughing along with the union audience, Mr. Obama noted that Mrs. Clinton seemed much more interested in guns since he made his comments than she had in the past.

"She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen, how she values the Second Amendment. She's talking like she's Annie Oakley," Mr. Obama said.

He continued: "Hillary Clinton is out there like she's on the duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better. That's some politics being played by Hillary Clinton."

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