Earlier this week, Herman Cain thoroughly mystified bloggers and pundits alike when, during an interview with Piers Morgan of CNN, he said that if a woman became pregnant as a result of rape, the situation “ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.” When asked to clarify his remarks, Cain immediately found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. His aversion for big government led him to a conclusion that apparently contradicted his pro-life stance: there are some decisions that the government should not be permitted to make.
In an attempt to quash the headlines declaring that he was “pro-choice,” Cain went to some length to clarify his position on the issue, lest he get into more hot water with social conservatives. He took to Twitter to declare: “I’m 100% pro-life. End of story.” But according to a recent survey, many Americans also struggle with this same moral complexity and ambiguity. In PRRI’s report, Committed to Availability, Conflicted About Morality: What the Millennial Generation Tells Us about the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars, we discovered that Americans’ views about morality and availability are often in conflict.
For instance, a majority (52%) of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong but an even larger majority (58%) say that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions. The survey also found that few Americans find themselves situated exclusively on either side of the pro-choice/pro-life divide. Seven-in-ten Americans say that the label “pro-choice” describes them well, while two-thirds of Americans say that “pro-life” describes them well.
All of this illustrates just how thorny the issue of abortion really is. But the best place to explore this complexity (as Herman Cain learned the hard way) may not be in conversations with reporters during a presidential primary race.