Ben Carson has made a point of courting Religious Right voters, suggesting that God called on him to run for the GOP presidential nomination and perfecting the right-wing persecution narrative about how conservatives are being repressed by a Nazi-like government and politically correct culture. It seemed that it went without saying that Carson would emerge as a staunch opponent of abortion rights.
However, as Politico’s Katie Glueck pointed out in an article today, Carson and his campaign have been using the exact same language used by a good many supporters of abortion rights, saying that while abortion may be objectionable, it should not be outlawed.
The attention to Carson’s ambiguous position on abortion rights comes after it was revealed that Carson once used aborted fetuses in his medical research, to which he offered an incomprehensible explanation. Back in 1992, he disavowed an anti-choice campaign ad that featured his remarks, telling the Baltimore Sun at the time that he did not believe in legal sanctions on abortion and had referred patients to doctors who offer abortion services:
“As a physician who does not believe in abortion, when faced with a patient who has severe medical problems, I would refer someone for an abortion,” Carson told the Baltimore Sun in September of 1992. “I believe that person needs to hear both sides … I would never advocate it’s illegal for a person to get an abortion. I think in the long run we do a lot of harm when we bludgeon people.”
In an interview with Glueck, a spokesman for Carson’s campaign made a similar argument, saying that while Carson personally opposes abortion, he doesn’t think the laws should be changed to take away that choice.
We can’t imagine that this position will sit well with Carson’s enthusiastic Religious Right fan base. But we also aren’t sure that Carson’s campaign even knows what his position on abortion rights is.
“He believes in quality medical care, No. 1, and secondly, he believes in people making their own decisions based on facts and information,” said Carson communications director Doug Watts, when asked whether Carson stands by his previous decisions to refer women whose fetuses had genetic defects to doctors who provide abortions. He does, Watts said.
“He believes people ought to have all the facts available to them, but he is steadfastly opposed to abortion,” Watts continued. “Referring it on does not mean he is advocating it, he’s advocating they are getting qualified medical supervision. He has always believed that the battle over abortion had to be waged in the hearts and minds of Americans, that you cannot legislate morality. But he also believes we’re winning the debate.”
Many pro-abortion rights politicians also personally have qualms about the procedure, but don’t feel it’s their role to pursue legal restrictions on the measure. Pressed repeatedly to name a legal restriction Carson supports, Watts demurred even as he stressed that the candidate is adamantly anti-abortion.
“It’s not a matter of legality, because there is legal abortion, but you’re asking for his point of view, where his restrictions are,” he said in a follow-up call. “Restrictions are not necessarily in his mind determined by laws. He believes that life begins at conception and that he is opposed to abortion after that.”
Carson has, in fact, come out in support of a bill in Congress that would ban abortion at 20 weeks, and he has said that cases in which giving birth endangers the life of the mother are rare — but should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But Watts reiterated that the legal realm is not Carson’s focus.
“It is legal,” Watts said of abortion. “And as I say, he does not think the issue is one that can be legislated as much as having to win the hearts and minds of people, to discover the morality or immorality of abortion. He is unequivocally, completely, positively opposed to abortion.”
“He thinks it is not something that is legislated,” Watts said of reining in abortion. “There’s been all kinds of laws over the years on abortion, some far more harsh than we have today, some less harsh. But what’s going on, to properly address the issue in his mind, is speaking to people in their hearts and minds so they realize the immorality of the act.” (emphasis added)