Ben Carson, Donald Trump Stumble on Abortion; No Wiggle Room With Pro-Lifers on Protecting Unborn, They Discover

(Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) talks to fellow candidate businessman Donald Trump during a commercial break in the midst of the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015.

Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump were criticized by pro-life activists this week after they waffled on their positions regarding abortion, research on aborted baby body parts and funding Planned Parenthood.

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(Photos: Reuters)Billionaire Donald Trump (top) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson received the most mentions on Facebook and Twitter during the Republican presidential debate Thursday night.

After Carson indicated support for the abortion drug RU-486 in the case of rape or incest, Cavuto asked Carson, "At the point of conception do you see that as life Doctor?"

"Certainly once the heart starts beating, certainly at that point," replied Carson.

His seemingly contradictory admission may come as a surprise to pro-life activists across the country. Carson was a popular speaker at several state right to life fundraising dinners the last several years and his own campaign website says he believes life begins at "conception."

Carson faced criticism from some pro-abortion activists and the media this week for supposed hypocricy because it was reported he conducted medical research while he was a neurosurgeon on fetal tissue of pre-born babies older than 17 weeks.

Carson defended his actions on Facebook, calling the attack "not true," and saying he had nothing to do with abortion and his name as a physician was only "attached" to a separate study. Carson called the accusations "propoganda" on Bill O'Reilly Thursday night.

Fellow presidential candidate, former Senator Rick Santorum, who said he would not participate in fetal tissue research, told CNN Friday that the research is often used to justify abortions.

"It's used to, I won't say coerce, certainly make women more comfortable about having an abortion," declared Santorum.

When asked if Carson is showing inconsistency on life, Santorum replied that "when you start to see some of these cracks, I think it will show if the person is really somebody who will take on an issue and be strong on it when they get into a very difficult situation of being president of the United States."

In an op-ed for The Christian Post, conservative and pro-life Iowa activist Shane Vander Hart wrote that Carson may have damaged his reputation with the pro-life community beyond repair.

"Children conceived in rape and incest are just as innocent as those who are not. All abortion does in this case is create another victim. Also, either you believe life begins at conception or you don't. Life doesn't suddenly not begin at conception just because the circumstance is difficult," he added.

While Trump is a newer face to the pro-life movement, having previously long been a supporter of abortion rights, foes of abortion are now denouncing him for comments saying he would take another look at Planned Parenthood services before nixing their federal funding entirely.

In early August, Trump previously called for the shutting down of the government to defund Planned Parenthood, while encouraging Republicans that if they stick together they can win in a showdown with the White House. Trump even blamed Republican leadership in early August for selling out lawmakers like Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate, accusing them of not "sticking together."

On Sean Hannity's television show Tuesday, Trump said of Planned Parenthood, "They do good things" for women's health while claiming that abortion is a "fairly small part" of the organization's operation.

Trump reiterated that he is against the "against the abortion aspect" of Planned Parenthood but said "conservative women" regularly come to him and to tell him the organization "serves a good function."

He clarified his comments, seemingly taking a stronger line against the popular abortion provider Tuesday evening in a statement to Brietbart News, saying, "While Planned Parenthood is engaging in the despicable act of abortion — in addition to selling aborted baby parts to the highest bidder — the organization should receive no taxpayer dollars.

"I am totally in favor of women's health and if they can put their money where their mouth is, and stop the abortion services at Planned Parenthood entirely," added Trump, "we can talk about government funding for many of the other aspects of the organization that do a lot of good."

Planned Parenthood made a rare move Tuesday in praising a GOP frontrunner for rejecting in what was their words "extreme" positions.

"Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take," said Planned Parenthood spokesmen Eric Ferrero.

Planned Parenthood encouraged the rest of the GOP field to follow Trump's lead in calling on them to be less "extreme" when it comes to cutting the over $530 million annually they receive from the federal government.

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser fired back at Trump saying he "misleads Americans by repeating tired Planned Parenthood talking points."

"According to its own annual reports, Planned Parenthood's abortions are on the rise — nearly one million in the last three years," she declared. "Meanwhile, their already limited non-abortion services have dropped significantly." Dannenfelser said Trump should have just quit after calling Planned Parenthood "an abortion factory."

In an interview with CBS News Wednesday, Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina accused Trump of "taking the Democrat Party's talking points on Planned Parenthood."

Lila Rose, leader of the pro-life organization Live Action called Trump's flip-flop "deeply troubling, and reveals ignorance about their horrific abortion practices." In her statement, Rose accused Trump of not watching the Planned Parenthood videos released by the center for Medical Progress.

In the past, Trump told Dana Loesch on her radio show in July that he has watched the first video and some of the second video. Trump called the footage "disgusting" and accused the tone of Planned Parenthood's top medical official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, as being "horrible" and "cavalier."