Herman Cain has offered up a confusing jumble of answers on his position on abortion in interviews, leaving it unclear whether or not he favors certain exceptions for rape and incest.
Cain, then a lower tier candidate, baffled FOX’s John Stossel in an interview several months ago on abortion when he said “I dont believe government should make that decision” and that if a woman is raped it’s “her choice” whether to end the pregnancy. But in the same one minute span he said that abortion should be banned in all cases. “I’m pro life, period,” he said.
On Meet The Press last week, Cain repeated that he does not believe in exceptions for abortion, but when asked a hypothetical scenario about a woman whose health is in danger replied “That family is going to have to make that decision.”
Then in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Wednesday, things got weird. Cain said he believes in “abortion under no circumstances,” but then, asked if he would apply that to rape and incest, started making what sounded like a passionate argument for choice in general. “It’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision,” he said. He added: “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.”
The ambiguity is especially weird because abortion is, in theory, one of Cain’s signature issues. He made his hardline stance against abortion in all cases a central part of his 2004 Senate run, making headlines in Georgia when he ran an ad accusing pro-life opponent Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) of being insufficiently tough on the issue because he favored exceptions for rape and incest.
“There’s a big difference between me and Johnny Isakson. And it’s not just the color of our eyes,” Cain said in the ad. “I believe in life from conception. Johnny’s voted pro-abortion 14 times.”
But that was a shift too, apparently: in a 1998 Nation’s Restaurant News interview making the rounds now, Cain proudly touted that he supported some exceptions on abortion.
The result? No one knows what Cain’s position is. We reached out to the campaign for clarification and will post their response.
Update: Herman Cain just tweeted “I’m 100% pro-life. End of story.” Which doesn’t seem to answer any of the questions raised above.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.