Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is raising eyebrows today of pro-life advocates and political pundits who thought he had previously taken a pro-life position on abortion.
In a new interview with Piers Morgan Wednesday night on CNN, Cain put forward a position that is reminding some of political like Mario Cuomo or Bill Clinton, who said they were personally pro-life but would not allow government to put laws into place protecting unborn children. Cain responded to questions concerning abortion in the case of rape or incest and said that, while he is pro-life, government should have no role in making the decision.
However, some observers say Cain was talking about more than rape or incest and point to his comments saying it appears he was talking about abortion in a general sense when saying government should have no role in protecting unborn children from abortions. If Cain is putting forward a nuanced view on abortions in cases of rape or incest, he joins the ranks of many pro-life Republican presidential candidates who have taken such views. But if Cain is saying abortions should not be prohibited by law, that would put him at odds with most Republicans and a majority of Americans who take a strongly pro-life position.
“Whats your view of abortion?” Morgan asks Cain in the interview.
“I believe that life begins at conception and abortion under no circumstances. And here’s why,” Cain said before Morgan interrupted him and asked, “No circumstances?” to which the presidential candidate replied, “No circumstances.”
Morgan told Cain that that sets him apart from many other Republican candidates who are pro-life but also believe in exceptions such as rape or incest or the life of the mother. He continued by asking Cain if he would want his daughter or granddaughter, if raped, to keep the baby — which Cain said “was mixing two things.”
“It’s not the government’s role, or anybody else’s role to make that decision,” Cain responded. “Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidence, 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. 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.”
Morgan told Cain that his views on the question of abortion are important because he may very well become president someday and turn into public policy.
“Not they don’t,” Cain said of his views becoming law. “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 a social decision that they need to make.”
Cain finished by saying he agreed with Morgan that his view is a departure from the political norm.
UPDATE: Cain sent a message out via Twitter at 1:00 p.m. ET, saying: “I’m 100% pro-life. End of story.”
UPDATE 2: Cain has released a new clarifying statement.
UPDATE: The campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry has responded to Cain’s comments, with Perry communications director Ray Sullivan saying, “A number of the Republicans candidates have flip flopped or been tripped up on the abortion issue. Governor Perry has been proudly pro-life for his entire career, successfully working to pass a parental consent law, a pre-abortion sonogram law, and defund Planned Parenthood in the state budget.”
UPDATE: Former Senator Rick Santorum responded to Cain’s remarks by issuing a statement saying Cain is not fully pro-life:
“Herman Cain said that he believes life begins at conception, but that it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not to terminate that life. And I find it gravely troubling that Herman believes it’s a life, but that he doesn’t consider it a life worth fighting for. As the author of the partial birth abortion ban and other pro-life pieces of legislation, this is the exact mentality myself and other true pro-life advocates fought against. In fact, Herman’s pro-choice position is similar to those held by John Kerry, Barack Obama and many others on the liberal left. No, Herman, it is not ‘whatever they decide,’this is an innocent human life. It is unconscionable for Herman to run for the nomination of the Party that stands in defense of Life while showing disregard for the sanctity of Life. You cannot be both personally against abortion while condoning it – you can’t have it both ways. We must defend the defenseless, period.”
Days ago, Cain stuck to a pro-life theme on abortion but also said it was the family’s decision in cases of rape or incest or the life of the mother. Cain pressed a no compromise pro-life view on abortion during a weekend interview with Meet The Press, and told host David Gregory he would not support abortion, including in cases of rape or incest.
“What about abortion? You want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Could you support or condone abortion under any exceptions at all?” Gregory asked Cain.
“I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances,” Cain responded. “Not for rape and incest because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it’s the life of the mother, that family’s going to have to make that decision.”
Pressed on the life of the mother exception, Cain stuck to his answer, saying, “That family is going to have to make that decision.”
Cain also fielded a question about the kind of Supreme Court justice he would appoint and told the NBC host that he would look for someone in the model of conservative jurist Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court justice who has issued pro-life opinions on abortion and is considered one of four who appear to be ready to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and pave the way for legal protection for unborn children.
“I would say that there are several that I have a lot of respect for,” Cain said. ” Justice Clarence Thomas is one of them. I believe that Justice Clarence Thomas, despite all of the attacks that he gets from the left, he basically rules and makes his decisions, in my opinion, based upon the Constitution and solid legal thinking. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my models.”
Cain has repeatedly taken on the Planned Parenthood abortion business and said it targets minority Americans by placing abortion centers in urban areas with a high percentage of blacks and Hispanics. Despite his deeply-held pro-life views, he upset some pro-life advocates by not signing the Susan B. Anthony List pledge. However, Cain reaffirmed his pro-life views in a statement at the time.
“I support right-to-life issues unequivocally and I adamantly support the first three aspects of the Susan B. Anthony pledge involving appointing pro-life judges, choosing pro-life cabinet members, and ending taxpayer-funded abortions,” Cain said this summer. “However, the fourth requirement demands that I ‘advance’ the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. As president, I would sign it, but Congress must advance the legislation.”
“I have been a consistent and unwavering champion of pro life issues,” Cain added. “In no way does this singular instance of clarification denote an abandonment of the pro-life movement, but instead, is a testament to my respect for the balance of power and the role of the presidency.”
Signers of the pledge include Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum and the pro-life organization is calling on pro-life activists to put pressure on those candidates who have not signed, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson.