Herman Cain Abortion Stance Is 'Quintessentially Pro-Choice,' Rick Santorum Says

Herman Cain Attacked On Abortion Position

CONCORD, N.H. -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum pounced on rival Herman Cain's position on abortion Thursday, saying it mirrors the views of abortion-rights supporters and shows that Cain is not a true conservative.

In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Cain said he believes life begins at conception. "And abortion under no circumstances," he added. But Cain also said "it's not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision," according to a CNN transcript.

(Video above via Mediaite.)

Asked whether his personal views would become a "directive to the nation," should he become president, Cain said they wouldn't.

"I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation," he said. "The government shouldn't be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make."

Cain also seemed contradictory in a recent interview with Fox Business' John Stossel. "My position is that I'm 100% pro-life. Period," he said. When asked whether it followed that a woman could not terminate a pregnancy if she had been raped, he said, "That's her choice. That is not government's choice. I support life from conception." When asked whether that meant abortion should be legal, he said, "No, abortion should not be legal. I believe in the sanctity of life."

Cain opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest in his 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate in Georgia. He also opposed using "tax dollars" that "could encourage abortion as a 'solution' to problem pregnancies."

Campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, Santorum accused Cain of misleading voters about his conservative credentials.

"It's basically the position that just about every pro-choice politician has in America," Santorum told The Associated Press. "I don't know too many pro-choice politicians who are for abortion, who want more abortions ... but they say the decision is a choice the government shouldn't be involved in."

Santorum added: "That is Herman Cain's position, which does not make him pro-life. That is the quintessential pro-choice position on abortion."

Santorum said Cain's comments are further proof that Cain hasn't been tested as a candidate.

"This is what you get when folks haven't run for office before - you get someone who says what he is personally, and no one .... asks the question of whether it applies to his public policy," Santorum said. "And obviously it does not."

A spokesman for Cain's campaign did not respond to a phone message, but Cain tweeted Thursday afternoon, "I'm 100% pro-life. End of story."

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, has been campaigning aggressively in early voting Iowa, where he gets high marks from conservative activists but registers little support in public polls. Cain, meanwhile, has been rising in the polls, both in New Hampshire and nationally.

Santorum kept up his criticism of Cain later Thursday, when he filed paperwork with the New Hampshire secretary of state's office to get on the ballot for the yet-to-be scheduled presidential primary. Cain did not file in person; he had a staffer sign him up earlier Thursday.

"I'm not selling any books today," Santorum said, referring to a book tour Cain recently launched that fueled speculation that he was more interested in profiting from his growing national profile than winning the election.

Santorum said it's possible "viral candidates and virtual candidates" can win but that he believes retail politics, particularly in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, still matter.

"Had Herman been up here doing town hall meetings for a few months we'd know a lot more about him than we do now," he said. "You may not agree with the positions I hold, but you know the positions I hold. And they're very clear, and they're very consistent."

UPDATE: Santorum sent out a statement Thursday afternoon saying Cain's position was similar to many on the "liberal left:"

Probably like me, you were absolutely floored by what Herman Cain said on CNN last night.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. That means that while he believes it is a life, he doesn't consider it a life worth fighting for. As the author of the legislation that banned partial birth abortions forever, I am stunned that someone running for the Republican nomination for president would have this position.

In fact, Herman Cain's pro-choice position is similar to those held by John Kerry, Barack Obama and many others on the liberal left. You cannot be both personally against abortion while condoning it - you can't have it both ways. We must defend the defenseless, period.

We can disagree about tax policy. We can disagree about government regulations. Those are fair issues to debate. But we must all stand unified in defense of the defenseless unborn.

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