(Politico) – Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is surging on a wave of support from socially conservative voters inspired by his passionate talk about faith and his attacks on Planned Parenthood. But while Carson insists he’s a fierce opponent of abortion, he also defends a long series of actions on the issue that are sharply at odds with the beliefs of the very voters fueling his rise.
Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, has referred women to doctors who perform abortions, was a trustee of a foundation that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood, and his campaign struggles to articulate which legal restrictions he supports on the procedure.
Carson’s history on the issue is shaped by his medical background: Decisions he made decades ago — about referring women carrying fetuses with genetic defects to doctors willing to perform abortions, and conducting research using fetal tissue — came in the context of making complex medical decisions. But those are calls the candidate, who is running as ardently anti-abortion, stands by today, positions he argues are not out of step with being personally pro-life. And they are positions his communications director defended in an interview using language favored by advocates for abortion rights.
“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.