Former President Jimmy Carter has said in an interview that he does not believe Jesus Christ would support abortion in most cases, identifying the "only conflict" he's had between his political duties and Christian faith.
"I have never believed that Jesus would be in favor of abortion, unless it was the result of rape or incest, or the mother's life was in danger. That's been the only conflict I've had in my career between political duties and Christian faith," Carter told The New York Times in an interview posted on Friday.
The Democrat made the comments in response to a question about his position on gay marriage, where he previously revealed that he believes Jesus would not be opposed to the practice.
Clarifying his comments in the NYT interview, he added: "Christ habitually reached out to the downtrodden and the outcast. That was the whole pattern of his ministry. Of course, Jesus never said anything about gay marriage in the Bible, but I believe he would be amenable to the union of two people who loved each other and didn't hurt anyone else."
Carter said that as a young man he used to be a Jehovah's Witness before he was a Baptist Christian.
"It's hard to grow up with such a foundational system and just let it go. I deeply believe in many Christian values: love people; do the right thing; know that there's good in everyone, that God's looking out for all of us," best-selling author Jacqueline Woodson said during a conversation with the former president.
"Being a Witness was too closed an experience. That's what I walked away from, not the things I believe."
Abortion has historically been a divisive issue in America, with a Gallup poll from May identifying that 50 percent of respondents are pro-choice on the issue, while 44 percent identify as pro-life.
The poll found a sharp divide in opinions among political lines, with 68 percent of Democrats identifying as pro-choice, compared to only 31 percent of Republicans.
Other evangelical Christians often associated with the Christian Left, such as Jim Wallis, Sojourners editor and spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama, have also spoken out against abortion.
"It's on us for how we talk about both life and each other. It's on us for how we short change real discussion on human life and death. And it's on us for giving into our basest nature to become like gods and thus gloss over the true image of God in each and every individual," Wallis wrote on Thursday, referring to the controversy surrounding leaked videos of Planned Parenthood workers discussing making profit from aborted fetal parts.
"A casual conversation over a glass of wine discussing how to protect fetal organs during an abortion is jolting to the heart, soul, and mind. But it points to the deepest concern of how we have come to value life in our society," he added.