Herman Cain further clarified his abortion remarks speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner in Iowa Saturday, and later said he believed he had laid the issue to rest.
Republican presidential candidate Cain hadn’t been in the state for two months, but he was able to connect with a majority of about 800 conservatives at the Des Moines event and reassure them that he was pro-life.
“In terms of preventing abortion on demand, I would not sign any legislation for government-funded abortion,” Bloomberg quoted the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO as telling the audience, as he sought to defend his Oct. 19 statement to CNN that although he opposed abortion,“it’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision.”
“I would not sign any legislation that in any way allowed the government to be involved in it,” said Cain, who was the first among the candidates to speak at the fall banquet. He also assured Iowa conservatives that he would strengthen all of the 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.”
After Cain’s speech, a majority stood up to applaud. When Bloomberg asked whether he thought he had put the matter behind him, Cain said, “I think I did.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was among the first to attack Cain’s remarks after the CNN interview. “After acknowledging that he believes life begins at conception, Herman Cain went on to say it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not to kill an innocent unborn child,” he said in a statement. “That means that while he believes it is a life, he doesn’t consider it a life worth fighting for.”
The Iowa event was an opportunity that Cain was able to avail. Before Cain spoke to the gathering, activist Chuck Laudner from Rockford said, “The timing couldn’t have been better for these folks right here. … He’s [Cain] got a lot of time on the stage to explain it.” The life issue, he added, “is one of those rock-ribbed, cornerstone issues where we really don’t have gray area.”
But when Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s turn came to speak to the crowd, he jabbed Cain. “It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision,” CNN quoted Perry as saying. “That is not pro-life, that is pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too,” he said, alluding to Cain’s remarks.
A day after his interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Cain issued a statement explaining his remarks. “I was asked questions about abortion policy and the role of the President. I understood the thrust of the question to ask whether that I, as president, would simply ‘order’ people to not seek an abortion. 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.”
Joining Cain at the Saturday’s banquet were presidential candidates Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Santorum.
Former Massachusetts governor and perceived frontrunner Mitt Romney did not attend the banquet, causing organizers to wonder if he wasn’t comfortable with Christian conservatives.