Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain continued to clarify his position on abortion this past weekend. Controversy over Cain's position began last week when he said he was pro-life in all circumstances but that government should stay out of a woman's decision. With social conservatives asking for clarity, Cain's opponents used the controversty as an opportunity to chip away at Cain's lead in the polls.
Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) made the most of Cain controversy during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum on Saturday. Perry emphasized his record on pro-life causes in Texas, giving a thinly veiled attack on Cain.
"Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience; it is a core conviction" Perry said. "It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision. If that is your view, you are not pro-life, you are pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too."
After a segment on Cain, Pat Robertson suggested today on The 700 Club that the Republican primary base has to "lay off" forcing their leaders into positions. The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008 but has said he will not endorse a candidate this cycle.
"Now whether this did it to Cain I don't know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they'll applaud the daylights out of what you're saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way' and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt," he said. "They've got to stop this! It's just so counterproductive!"
While Perry made nearly his entire speech in Iowa on the issue of abortion, Cain only alluded to it once when he said "life" meant "life, from conception. No abortion–no exceptions." During the Q&A following his speech, Cain's first question was on what he would "to prevent abortion on demand." Cain answered with a list of actions he would take as president.
"I would not sign any legislation [for] government funded abortion. I would not sign any legislation that in any way allowed the government to be involved in it. I would strengthen all of our current laws that prevent abortion. I believe that abortion should be clearly stated [as] illegal across this country and I would work to defund Planned Parenthood," Cain said. "And I would make sure that I appoint judges that will enforce the Constitution. No activist judges. And I would also make sure that we didn't allow any bureaucrats to get in the way in order to protect the life of the unborn."
Cain did not explain what policies he would advocate as president. For Cain, the president should not advance legislation. Instead, he should simply manage the bureaucracy and veto legislation. In June, he declined to sign a Susan B. Anthony List Pro-Life Presidential Pledge because he would not promise to "advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion." Cain explained that it was not the role of the President to "advance" legislation. "As president, I would sign it, but Congress must advance the legislation," Cain said.
Cain said his comments during the CNN interview were made in the context of presidential power.
"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," Cain said. "As to my political policy view on abortion, I am 100% pro-life. End of story."
Cain may not "order" someone to have an abortion or "advance" legislation, but he is willing to use the bully pulpit. He told CBN's David Brody that he would talk about the issue and try to change people's minds on it.
Brody asked Cain if he would support a pro-life amendment that would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.
"Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it," Cain said. "If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I'll sign it. That's all I can do. I will sign it."
As Politico's Ben Smith noted, amendments do not require presidential approval. Amendments approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate go to the states to be ratified. Three-quarters of the states must ratify an amendment (38 out of 50).