Herman Cain, who recently found himself the target of criticism from social conservatives for espousing conflicting sentiments about abortion, clarified his position this weekend, saying that he is “pro-life from conception, period.” He added that he opposes abortion even after rape or incest or when a woman’s life is at risk, contradicting previous statements in which he allowed for exceptions in these circumstances.
While Cain was being painted as pro-choice, we observed that his dilemma over abortion is actually quite common among Americans, whose views about morality and availability are often in conflict. His new hard-line stance on abortion may not appeal to all white evangelical Protestants and Tea party members, who oppose abortion overall but support its legality in certain circumstances. In Committed to Availability, Conflicted About Morality: What the Millennial Generation Tells Us about the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars, PRRI found:
- Seventy-six percent of white evangelical Protestants and 79% of people who identify as part of the Tea Party movement believe that it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if her physical health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy.
- Fifty-six percent of white evangelical Protestants and 57% of Tea Party identifiers agree that a pregnant woman should be able to get a legal abortion if the pregnancy seriously endangers her mental health.
- Sixty-five percent of white evangelical Protestants and 69% of Tea Party identifiers believe that a pregnant woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion if she became pregnant as the result of rape.
The report also found that 62% of Independents believe that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide abortions, suggesting that Cain’s attempts to shore up his conservative credentials on the abortion issue might alienate Americans in the general election. In his attempts to fall into step with conservative orthodoxy on abortion, it looks like Cain may have erred too far on the side of proscription.