Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain addressed the issue of abortion on Piers Morgan’s show on CNN Wednesday night. His answer has caused concern from many in the pro-life community and his subsequent response has not yet put the issue to rest.
After first stating he believes "life begins at conception," Morgan asked him specifically about the what he would do if his granddaughter was pregnant as a result of a rape.
"It comes down to it’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that big a number. So what I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make," said Cain. "Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue."
It is difficult to determine if he was talking about abortion only in the case of rape or all abortion in his response, but he continued.
"I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make," continued Cain.
This answer prompted his opponent Rick Santorum to characterize Cain’s position as a "pro-choice position similar to those held by John Kerry, Barack Obama and many others on the liberal left." And Santorum’s point has merit. This answer sounded similar to the so-called "personally opposed to abortion" stance taken by many Democrats who seek to be able to call themselves pro-life, but not favor any governmental restrictions on abortion.
Cain put out a statement via email late yesterday that still leaves me wondering exactly where he stands….
The abortion issue is very serious. I believe strongly that this is true, and I believe that you do too.
Because the news media loves to make mountains out of mole hills, I want to be very clear about where I stand on abortion:
I am 100% pro-life, period.
Let me explain. In an interview yesterday with Piers Morgan on CNN, I was asked questions about abortion policy and the role of the President.
If you listen to the line of questioning, it is clear that Mr. Morgan was asking if I, as president, would simply "order" people to not seek an abortion.
My answer was focused on the role of the President. The President has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. That was the point I was trying to convey.
As to my political view on abortion…again, I am pro-life. End of story.
As President, I will appoint judges who understand the original intent of the Constitution. Judges who are committed to the rule of law know that the Constitution contains no right to take the life of unborn children.
I will oppose government funding of abortion. I will veto any legislation that contains funds for Planned Parenthood. I will do everything that a President can do, consistent with his constitutional role, to advance the culture of life.
In his statement, he lists two main policy points – appointing judges that understand the original intent of the Constitution and opposing government funding of abortions. He does not directly address his position on Roe v. Wade or his stance on a Human Life Amendment. In fact, his policy positions are very similar to Rudy Giuliani’s positions in his 2008 campaign.
Cain needs to address this answer more fully and do so quickly. Here is why. His support is made up largely of people unhappy with Mitt Romney as the candidate as they feel he is too moderate based on his previous position. A sizable chunk of this group are social conservatives who are concerned about Romney’s previous support for Roe v. Wade when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. If Cain is seen as soft on the pro-life issue, he will quickly lose this support, particularly with the socially conservative Iowa caucus voters.
It is still unclear to me exactly what Cain’s position is on some key policy issues affecting abortion and what he sees as his role as President in advancing these positions. I can’t tell if his CNN interview was a gaffe, a flip-flop, or a clarification of what his stance actually is. Pro-lifers will probably forgive a gaffe, but if he has tipped his hand that he will not fight for the right to life as President, his bubble is about to burst.
Cain will be in Springdale, Arkansas this coming Thursday to speak to the Washington County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner. I plan to attend and hopefully can ask him some of these important questions.
UPDATE – Cain sought to clarify the remarks on Friday afternoon in an interview with National Review Online saying, “Abortion should not be legal, that is clear.” He said he answer on CNN was to a specific question about his own grandaughter becoming pregnant as a result of rape and was trying to explain how difficult this decision would be for a family. "If that family made a decision to break the law, that’s that family’s decision, that’s all I’m trying to say.”
UPDATE II – Cain states his position much more clearly in this CBN interview with David Brody. He states he is for a Human Life Amendment, for overtuning Roe v. Wade, and would use his office to advance the pro-life cause. He blames Pier Morgan with CNN for trying to "pigeonhole" him in his interview.