Dr. Ben Carson has had a rough couple of days. Carson, who is running for president, doing well fundraising, and has fared well in the polls, may have taken a big hit with pro-life activists he will need if he plans to win the Iowa Caucus.
Carson has been vocally critical of Planned Parenthood's involvement in fetal tissue research that has allegedly been done for profit. Wednesday, a blogger published excerpts of a paper Carson co-wrote in 1992 that described research he carried out using aborted fetuses.
He defended the practice in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday.
"You have to look at the intent," Carson told the Post. "To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you're killing babies and taking the tissue, that's a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it."
This is at odds with what he told Fox News after the first video from the Center for Medical Research was released as reported by Breitbart News:
Carson said, in response, to the argument that Planned Parenthood uses fetal organs for medical research, "it's been over-promised what the benefits of fetal research would be. And very much under-delivered. And if you go back over the years, and look at the research that has been done and all the things that it was supposed to deliver, very little of that has been done, and there's nothing that can't be done without fetal tissue. So, it's a spurious argument, but, you know, what's really disturbing is the fact that we have become so callous that a lot of people don't even realize that this is shocking. To see the callousness, [with] which we are treating human life. It's interesting that there are so many people who are concerned about snail darters and little spiders and things, and yet, the human being inside of that mother's womb, just beyond, you know, 10 weeks, is much more sophisticated than many of these creatures that they're trying to preserve. And we've created a dichotomy in what should be a[n] almost sacred relationship between a mother and that baby, and a mother is a protector of that baby, and we've distorted things to the point where people believe that if the mother can't kill the baby, than anybody who's advocating that is an enemy of women. How can we be so foolish as to believe such a thing?"
He added, "Well, I think the thing that's really controversial about it [the video] is that it's sort of like taking a cold fish and slapping you in the face when you're falling asleep. And you begin to recognize how far we have drifted in terms of our humanity. And, you know, a little developing baby is just an incredible sight to behold. You know, now that we have very good ultrasound techniques, even have the ability to endoscopically look at these little human beings as they're developing. [In reaction to pictures of a 17-week old child] At 17 weeks, you know, you've got a nice little nose and little fingers and hands, and the heart's beating, and it can respond to environmental stimulus. I mean, how can you just believe that that's a[n] irrelevant mass of cells? And that's what they want you to believe, when in fact, it is a human being."
The fetal tissue research that Carson defends was done with tissue from preborn babies older than 17 weeks.
"When we obtain tissue like that, we want to know what the origin of that tissue is developmentally," Carson told The Washington Post, explaining his research. "Knowing that helps us determine which patients are likely to develop a problem. It's one of the reasons why at the turn of the last century, the average age of death was 47. Now, the average age of death is 80. Using the information that you have is a smart thing, not a dumb thing."
Carson also said that fetal tissue research should not be outlawed.
If he meant research done on babies who have been miscarried with parental consent one could possibly see his point, but this appears to be a contradiction from what he originally said he believes and what Carson does in practice.
If he said to the Washington Post, I was wrong then. I've changed my position since, many people could accept that since this paper was written 23 years ago. He didn't do that. He defended it.
That's a shame, and his reasoning is convoluted. I won't say what he did is the moral equivalence of what Planned Parenthood is doing, but it is not a practice that someone who professes to be pro-life should defend.
Thursday night, he released a statement on Facebook:
I wanted to use our time tonight to directly deal with an attack launched on me today by the left and the media. A couple questions came in on this subject, so I want to address it head on.
Today I was accused by the press as having done research on fetal tissue. It simply is not true. The study they distributed by an anonymous source was done in 1992. The study was about tumors. I won't bore you with the science. There were four doctors' names on the study. One was mine. I spent my life studying brain tumors and removing them. My only involvement in this study was supplying tumors that I had removed from my patients. Those tissue samples were compared to other tissue samples under a microscope. Pathologists do this work to gain clues about tumors.
I, nor any of the doctors involved with this study, had anything to do with abortion or what Planned Parenthood has been doing. Research hospitals across the country have microscope slides of all kinds of tissue to compare and contrast. The fetal tissue that was viewed in this study by others was not collected for this study.
I am sickened by the attack that I, after having spent my entire life caring for children, had something to do with aborting a child and harvesting organs. My medical specialty is the human brain and even I am amazed at what it is capable of doing. Please know these attacks are pathetic attempts to blunt our progress.
Carson wasn't done. That was just one controversy.
On Thursday in an interview with Neil Cavuto, Carson was asked about abortion bans with exception clauses for rape and incest. Carson indicated support for the abortion drug, RU-486, to be given in the emergency room for women who experience a rape.
This is definitely inconsistent with a pro-life message.
"In cases of rape and incest, I would hope they would very quickly avail themselves of an emergency room. And in the emergency room they have the ability to administer RU-486, other possibilities, before you have a developing fetus," Carson told Cavuto.
Cavuto asked, "At the point of conception do you see that as life Doctor?"
"Certainly once the heart starts beating, certainly at that point. This is something that we need to come to accommodation. If we are willing to open up the discussion, both sides, I think we can come to an accommodation. We'll never come to an accommodation as long as we get off in our respective corners and say absolutely not," Carson answered.
This is even worse. Now he advocates the abortion of those who have been conceived in rape or incest prior to a heartbeat.
Carson on his issues page "Protecting Innocent Life" says, "I am unabashedly and entirely pro-life. Human life begins at conception and innocent life must be protected."
He waffled when the "pressure" was on with Neil Cavuto (whom I've not known to be a pro-abortion activist). His answers to Cavuto's questions are utterly inconsistent with what he claims on his website and have heard him proclaim publicly in speeches.
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.
On abortion there really isn't any middle ground. It's naive to think that compromise on this issue is possible. Certainly people can accept, pragmatically, that certain bills may not be passed and so strategies differ among pro-life activists. Carson's statement doesn't reflect that. He states approval for the use of an abortion drug.
With a crowded field Carson's pathway to the nomination and largest base of support are social conservatives. He has suffered an implosion that could cripple his ability to win. He may have damaged his pro-life street cred beyond repair.
This article was originally published at Caffeinated Thoughts.