WASHINGTON, D.C., August 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Republicans most trust Dr. Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee to handle the issue of abortion, according to a recent CNN poll. However, a series of statements from Carson's campaign, and from Dr. Carson himself, have led to questions about the clarity of his pro-life views about when life begins, how RU-486 works, and his views on experimenting with aborted fetal tissue, among other issues.
On Tuesday, the Carson campaign defended his decision to refer women to abortionists if the child suffered from fetal deformities.
“Referring it on does not mean he is advocating it,” campaign spokesman Doug Watts told Politico. “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.”
Carson told the Baltimore Sun in 1992, “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.”
“I would never advocate it’s illegal for a person to get an abortion,” the doctor said at the time. “I think in the long run we do a lot of harm when we bludgeon people.”
Carson made the statement the same year he participated in a study that examined tissues derived from two aborted children. While Carson played no role in harvesting or handling the tissue, he strongly defends medical experimentation with aborted babies, calling opposition to the practice “foolish.” Rick Santorum has said he would never engage in medical research that was “morally suspect.”
Recent misstatements also called into question whether he believes life begins at conception.
On August 12, Fox News host Neil 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,” Carson replied.
While he has said he opposes abortion without exceptions, he told Cavuto, “in cases of rape and incest, I would hope that [mothers] would very quickly avail themselves of emergency room and in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer, you know, RU-486, other possibilities, before you have a developing fetus.”
Carson later said that he misspoke.
“I think when conception occurs, life occurs,” he told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. He also told ABC's This Week program, “I believe that life begins at conception.”
He said that his remarks to Cavuto meant to imply that both sides of the abortion debate would be able to agree that life begins when a fetal heartbeat can be detected – usually within the first six weeks of pregnancy.
When asked about “RU-486,” he responded, “I think when conception occurs, life occurs. But I do believe in contraception.”
“The egg is only fertilizable at certain times – and there are certain types of drugs, progestins, that can prevent ovulation…if ovulation doesn’t occur, you’re not going to have conception.”
The Carson campaign later said Carson meant to speak of “emergency contraception,” not the RU-486 abortion pill.
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However, one of the world's foremost authorities on Plan B has said that it, too, acts as an abortifacient.
Dr. James Trussell, the director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research, wrote in 2013, “To make an informed choice, women must know that [emergency contraceptive pills]…prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, but may at times inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium.”
Dr. Carson is currently second in national polls of Republican presidential hopefuls, behind only Donald Trump.