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Heat on Herman Cain for Abortion Position

Herman Cain is surging ahead in the Republican presidential primary race – an October 20th Rassmusen poll in Iowa puts him in the lead at 28%, ahead of Mitt Romney at 21% – but facing increasing scrutiny from pro-life voters as a result of confusing and conflicting statements made during multiple media interviews.

In an interview conducted in July with John Stossel on Fox Business News, speaking about the issue of abortion, the GOP presidential hopeful said that “government shouldn’t make that decision.”  Last Sunday he was on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” where he was asked about abortion in a situation where the mother’s life is at risk. Cain answered, “That family is going to have to make that decision.” And then, on Wednesday, Herman Cain appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan” where he was pressed again about cases of rape.  His response:

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.

Throughout the campaign Herman Cain has described himself as 100% pro-life. Some are beginning to question that claim. Seeking to allay the fears of his base, within hours of the CNN interview the political candidate issued this clarification:

My answer was focused on the role of the President. The President has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. … 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.

It would seem that Mr. Cain is at-heart strongly pro-life, but wavers a bit while under fire in the hot seat of a newsroom. In fairness, he is certainly not the first pro-life Republican candidate to stumble through question and answer sessions. But pro-life politicians should be able to handily field any question on this subject with ease. After all, the grounds on which we oppose abortion is at the same time perfectly rational, and wonderfully simple: It is always wrong to directly and intentionally kill an innocent human being.

Herman Cain would have done well to remind Piers Morgan of this moral truth, placing his interviewer in the awkward position of defending the indefensible; being forced to explain to his viewers why killing a baby is a good choice.

There are only four substantive differences between born babies and unborn babies: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. Not one of these differences is a difference that matters when it comes to the question of killing. If it is not legal to kill a newborn baby whose father is a rapist, then neither should it be legal to kill an unborn baby whose father is a rapist.

But perhaps Herman Cain’s easiest out under relentless questioning from journalists who look askance at him for being “anti-choice,” is to ask whether they have ever seen an abortion. Abortion can be numbered among those things in life which must actually to be seen to be fully comprehended. And once it is seen in its grisly reality, everything changes.

Incidentally, this is also why the pro-life movement as a whole must grow to appreciate and encourage the public display of evidence that abortion kills children. As Dr. Martin Luther King put it,

Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” [Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963]

For forty years babies have been killed by the millions, legally, inAmerica. Decade after decade the killing has gone on virtually unabated, and any objective observer would have to concede that ours is a movement that has been marked largely by failure. Perhaps the reason lies with the fact that for four decades we have been shouting – rather than proving – the conclusions we want skeptics to reach: “Abortion stops a beating heart,” “It’s a child not a choice,” “Abortion kills children.”

A cursory review of the history of social reform demonstrates that pictures of injustice are what ultimately shifted the collective conscience of societies and paved the way for social reform. Effective reformers like Dr. King and abolitionist William Wilberforce realized that injustices which are covered up have no hope of ending. As Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Maybe pro-life politicians like Herman Cain could start carrying a photograph of a first trimester abortion on their person. And when pressed about why he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, he could retrieve the photo from his wallet, and say, “This is why.”


Tom Herring is a health physicist completing his Master's degree in Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. He is Co-Director of the Anti-Choice Project (antichoiceproject.com) and lives in Port Orchard, Washington with his wife and three children.
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  • Herman Cain’s firmness that he is pro-life from conception on should be taken at face value.

    By contrast, however, the value of his opinion on the Occupy Wall St. movement is pretty shaky. On Oct. 27 he stated that “nobody knows what their cause is. How are you going to assist them with a cause when you don’t know what the cause is?” Well, Mr. Cain, let me invite you to inform yourself about OWS by reading my 3 part series here on Catholic Lane, “The Occupy Movement: A Report from Occupy Seattle.”