The Clarification of Herman Cain


Herman Cain released a statement on Thursday clarifying his position on abortion:

Yesterday in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, I was asked questions about abortion policy and the role of the President.

I understood the thrust of the question to ask whether that 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 policy view on abortion, I am 100% pro-life. End of story.

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.

(Emphasis mine.)  This would imply that Cain wants judges who would vote in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade and returning the abortion issue to the states.  Someone will eventually ask him point-blank if that’s what he means, and he’ll want to be ready with a straightforward answer. 

Also, if the Constitution contains “no right to take the life of unborn children,” is the government not obliged to protect those lives?  Rival candidate Rick Santorum, responding to Cain’s comments on CNN, put it this way: “I find it gravely troubling that Herman believes it’s a life, but that he doesn’t consider it a life worth fighting for.”

Here is what Cain said to Piers Morgan, after he stated that he believes “life begins at conception” and abortion is acceptable “under no circumstances,” and Morgan asked if Cain would hold his own grandchildren to that standard:

It comes down to, it’s not the government’s role or anybody’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that number. What I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that the 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. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

The statement Cain released on Thursday is quite a bit different than the total hands-off approach he expressed to Morgan, when Cain explicitly stated that the entire government (“not me as President, not some politician, not a bureaucrat”) has no role at all to play in a decision made entirely by the “family” involved.  That presumably includes both the mother and father… but what if the mother wants an abortion, while the father is adamantly opposed?  Doesn’t some sort of legal mechanism inevitably have to become involved at that point?

Take every layer of government out of the equation, and it boils down to the pure pro-choice position of mothers deciding the fate of unviable tissue masses.  That’s clearly not how Cain sees it, based on his clarifying statement… which, as you’ll see in a moment, just got re-clarified again.

It’s good that he cleared things up quickly, but the incident raises some questions about how the Cain campaign is running.  Wherever you personally come down on the abortion question, and even if you think the whole thing is a distraction that shouldn’t occupy a moment of our time in this crucial election, you should understand that a sizable portion of the Republican electorate is very passionate about this issue.  This passion is a well-known matter of record, not an obscure secret known only to political gurus.  It’s not surprising that they resent being told to stifle their deep convictions and get with the program to elect a candidate with radically different views.

If you’re running for president on the Republican ticket, you’re going to encounter the pro-life community fairly early in the process.  Their concerns should be obvious to any serious candidate, let alone one who claims, as Herman Cain does, to embrace the pro-life position personally (and I don’t think there’s any reason to question his sincerity.) 

In other words, this is something Cain should have done his homework on a long time ago.  Even if he was firmly standing by a hardcore libertarian position (assuming the “liberty” of the unborn child is completely discounted) he should have known it wouldn’t sit well with the pro-life constituency, and prepared himself to deal with them.  If he’s really in favor of repealing Roe vs. Wade, he will soon discover that doesn’t sit well with an entirely different constituency.

As it happens, Cain clarified things a bit further today in a Fox News interview, transcribed by Life News.  The Fox anchor pointed out that on CNN, Cain presented abortion as “a choice, a decision that is to be made by the family, not something that is considered murder by the laws of this country.”  Cain emphatically stated that was not his position.  In fact, that’s the opposite of what he really thinks:

“Let me just state again, I am pro-life from conception, no exceptions,” Cain responded. “I will not fund any abortions by the government, I will sign any legislation to de-fund  and all of the other variations of this whole pro-life issue.”

Fox’s anchor then asked, “The question is, do you want abortion to be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision?”

Cain replied, “No. No, I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country if that’s the question. I’m consistent with that.”

“Look, abortion should not be legal,” Cain said a moment later. “That is clear,” he said, adding that anyone who wanted to get an abortion would be breaking the law by doing so.

That’s a swing from the nearly absolute pro-choice position to the nearly absolute pro-life position in just two days.  He went from explicitly stating that no level of government should have anything to say about the matter, to declaring that abortion should be flatly illegal, and anyone who gets one would be breaking the law.

Since I first wrote about the Cain interview on CNN, I’ve received emails from several people angrily telling me Cain’s position was clear as daylight, and I shouldn’t even have mentioned the incident.  Well, they were all wrong, because absolutely none of them thought Cain’s position was “I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country.”  Apologies are unnecessary.  I don’t blame you for being confused.  That’s the problem.