Exclusive – Ben Carson’s Media Director Defends Carson’s Pro-Life Record

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson delivers a speech to supporters Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Phoenix. The state Republican Party says Tuesday evening's rally was moved from a church in Tempe to the convention center because of high demand.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

“There’s not a person on this planet who’s raised more money as a pro-life person than Dr. Carson, and his position is pretty clear,” the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign communications director says.

Doug Watts tells Breitbart News that a Politico story that characterized Dr. Ben Carson as a hypocrite when it comes to pro-life issues is false.

He states the Politico story, which reports that while Carson is “fiercely pro-life,” his “record (and his own comments) don’t back that up,” did not accurately portray Carson’s strong pro-life views that he has put into action in both his personal and professional life.

With the nation in the midst of an undercover investigative video exposé of Planned Parenthood’s practices of harvesting the organs of aborted babies for potential sale to biomedical companies, the abortion industry – and whether the nation’s largest abortion provider should remain funded by American taxpayers – has become a central issue of the 2016 presidential campaign.

According to the Politico story:

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.

Watts states that on the campaign trail he has had to warn Dr. Carson that in discussing medical issues, “it’s hard to get your point across” when it’s unclear how much background reporters have on these issues.

The Politico article added the following:

“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.”

The context of the Sun article, however, was that doctors are divided on the morality of abortion, and Carson was highlighted as a physician who is pro-life.

“Dr. Ben Carson, a Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon, says that ‘as an individual who spends a lot of time trying to maintain life, I’m not going to be particularly enthusiastic about destroying life,’” the article also states.

The Sun further reports, “Dr. Carson, for example, opposes abortion but says he sends patients who are seeking abortions to other doctors.”

The article adds:

He is appearing now in a television commercial, whose script he says he modified “substantially,” for the Vote kNOw Coalition, which is leading the campaign to defeat a new abortion law at referendum. Because he dislikes high-pitched arguments on the issue, Dr. Carson doesn’t argue in the ad against abortion but urges that voters study the law.

Watts states the content of Carson’s view – he is unequivocally pro-life – is not at issue, but that Carson employs a method of getting his point across that invites discussion, rather than animosity.

“His view on most issues is that it can be resolved if most people can sit down and stop throwing darts at one another,” he explains, adding:

And he believes that we can have Congress legislate until the cows come home, with restrictions on abortion or exemptions on abortion – however they judge – in his view this is an issue of hearts and minds and morality and he believes that if you keep pushing and articulating and working for pro-life situations, that sooner than later most people will come to the moral conclusion that life begins at conception and that’s that. So, that’s what he’s speaking about in the broad sense. He thinks that you and I ought to sit down and talk about things and get to a point where we have an understanding of what the issues are and what’s at stake.

Adding more grist for the mill recently was Carson’s appearance on Fox News Channel’s show hosted by Neil Cavuto. Carson said he “would hope” that in cases of rape and incest, a woman would go to the hospital and get RU-486, a drug which is known to cause abortion.

“In cases of rape and incest, I would hope that they would very quickly avail themselves of the emergency room,” Carson said. “And in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer RU-486 or other possibilities before you have a developing fetus.”

Asked whether he saw the point of conception as life, Carson told Cavuto, “Certainly, once the heart starts beating. Certainly, at that point.”

“This is something that we need to come to accommodation,” the candidate told Cavuto. “And, you know, if we are willing to open up the discussion – both sides – I think we can come to accommodation. We’ll never come to accommodation as long as we get off into our respective corners and say, ‘absolutely not.’”

Asked by Breitbart News about what Carson meant by “accommodation,” Watts said he doubts if Carson has any “accommodation” in mind:

He’s never expressed it to me, and it certainly isn’t compromising his views on a matter of when life occurs. It is his general philosophy about every issue – he said it at the border yesterday, he said it regarding the EPA on Tuesday in Durango, just about every other issue – there has to be some kind of a reasonable point where people stop yelling and screaming at one another and try to resolve the issue, and see if they can reach some kind of accommodation and consensus…and so that is in general his philosophy.

It doesn’t mean he’s talking about compromising anything in terms of his view on the pro-life matter because that can’t be compromised. As many people have even said to me in this conversation within the last two weeks, “You mean really after roughly 48 hours in a matter of conception in a situation of rape and incest, you still think the baby should be born?” And I say, “Yes, unequivocally, yes.”

Regarding Carson’s comments on RU-486, Watts says he reads his candidate’s response to Cavuto’s question about the start of life as “when the heart starts beating,” as “suggesting that’s what most people believe.”

“He certainly sees that argument and understands that argument,” he explains. “But, personally – and he’s been on the record many times – he firmly believes that life begins at conception and at that moment of conception the situation is no longer viable for any kind of outside interference of any sort because that’s when life begins.”

Watts continues:

And he considers it killing a baby at the moment of conception. So, he’s steadfast in that belief, even in the case of rape and incest. He has tried to explain to several reporters of late, particularly after Norah O’Donnell questioned him on CBS about life of mother, and he made the accurate comment that it’s a very rare instance these days. People often confuse “health of mother” with “life of mother,” and there’s a big difference. And he said it’s been rare for many years for the life of the mother to end in an instance, and it certainly could be considered on a case-by-case basis, but the moment of conception creates a very bright line upon which you do not cross.

Watts said Carson’s view of RU-486 or any other intervention was applied to a case for someone who was reporting rape or incest, and in the first 48 hours before conception may occur.

“I guess it could occur in 36 hours, it might occur in 52 hours, I don’t know, but the idea is you’ve got about 48 hours before conception takes place and that would be a time for appropriate involvement with a physician and the application of RU-486,” he said.

Regarding RU-486, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, tells Breitbart News that more “moral and medical clarity” is needed in the discussion about the drug.

“RU-486 is not used to prevent a pregnancy, but rather to end one that has already begun,” he states. “It starves the baby.”

“It is morally licit, however, for a woman to take steps to prevent a rape from resulting in a pregnancy (understood as starting at fertilization),” he adds.

The Politico article also reported that Carson “was a trustee of a foundation that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood.”

The article adds, however:

(Two days after being asked for comment, Watts emailed to note, “The foundation is an umbrella of over 70 different funds controlled by individual boards and guidelines. The Planned Parenthood donations came from one of these single funds NOT the Baltimore Foundation. Dr. Carson and the entire Board for that matter could have neither approved or stopped the donation. There are no votes on these grants.”)

Watts states Politico “never bothered to call the foundation to find out they did not, in fact, ever give any money to Planned Parenthood, that they were an umbrella organization over 70 groups – like United Way is in a community and dispense it to other groups.”

Carson has come out boldly against Planned Parenthood, particularly noting the abortion giant’s eugenicist founder Margaret Sanger. Planned Parenthood puts “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods” so they can “control that population,” he said.

Carson’s views on “fetal tissue research” were also recently featured in a Washington Post story claiming the neurosurgeon had “no apologies for his 1992 fetal tissue research.”

From the article:

Carson had not forgotten and considered the type of research he did to be useful. “When we obtain tissue like that, we want to know what the origin of that tissue is developmentally,” he said. “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.”

Breitbart News asked Watts if Dr. Carson’s reported comments in the Post’s story are contradictory to what he has also recently said, that the claim – by Planned Parenthood – that fetal tissue from abortions is important for medical and scientific research, is “spurious.”

“There’s nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue,” Carson said on Fox News Channel’s The Kelly File. “[I]t’s been over-promised what the benefits of fetal research would be. And very much under-delivered.”

Watts responded:

Dr. Carson was listed on a paper along with three other colleagues in 1992. Two of the colleagues were pathologists. And his role – his sole role – in that study and for which he got credit as a co-author for the paper – was to provide the pathologists with a tissue sample from a tumor that he had removed from the brain of a child. The child survived, the child went on to live a healthy life, and was not in any way an aborted fetus, a fetus, a child in the womb – any of that situation. It was a child who had a brain tumor, and Dr. Carson was tasked with removing the tumor to protect the child and then providing tissue samples from the tumor. He provided them to the pathologists and his understanding – that was the end of his role – his understanding is the pathologists used it as a comparison.

He didn’t know if they created one or 50 or 100 slides from those tissue samples, but it was to have it compared to tissue samples that they selected from a tissue bank. His recollection was the tissues that they got from the tissue bank could have been up to a couple decades old, that they were a certified bank of some sort, and these were tissue samples that have a wide array of what their genesis was. Apparently, two of those samples were from aborted fetuses at some point in time – I think it was a 7-week and a 17-week if my recollection is correct. But, as Dr. Carson says, he does not know, but more than likely they were fetuses that were aborted involuntarily, that certainly at that point in time people were not aborting fetuses – he didn’t think – for the collection of tissue samples or organs to be sold on the open market.

And, so, that’s really the explanation for the paper and what his participation role was in it. After that, he was trying to explain to Megyn Kelly and a few others that even if whatever the origin of those tissue samples were that he never touched, he never worked on, he never had anything to do with other than providing another component for comparison in that study, that the comparison and the effort by Planned Parenthood and their supporters was to try to compare that kind of tissue sample and situation in 1992 to today’s issue of aborting fetuses – essentially killing the babies but taking care not to harm vital organs that they want to extract from the fetus and sell on the open market and he thought that was an appalling comparison. And I think that was what he was really trying to get out and, in some cases, got misinterpreted.

 We think, and I would challenge anyone to say differently, there’s not a person on this planet whose raised more money as a pro-life person than Dr. Carson, and his position is pretty clear.

As for the claims that Carson referred patients for abortions, Watts responds that Carson was asked a question about a hypothetical situation:

And the hypothetical was just a woman came to him and indicated that she had these issues and that she thought she might be having a baby that would be born with a disability and didn’t want anything to do with the baby, or was concerned about what the issues were. He personally would strenuously counsel her not to have an abortion, but in a hypothetical sense, if she wasn’t satisfied, if she still wanted to deal with that in some other way, if she wanted another piece of advice from an abortionist – thinking that was the alternative – could he provide her with a referral for her to have that conversation?

And, he said to me, “I take my oath very seriously to provide the best healthcare for the patient. I want the patient to have all the information required to make the decision that works for them. So, in that instance, yes, I would have given her somebody that I knew was a qualified medical professional for her to go see, but I probably would have followed her out the door saying, But please, don’t have an abortion.”

Watts states Carson would simply want a patient in that situation who sought information about all her options to see people who can offer her that information. Carson himself, however, does not ever recommend abortion, he said, so would not counsel a patient to receive one.

Ironically, it is the pro-abortion movement that has sought to cut off “information” to women seeking abortion. Planned Parenthood has fought against mandatory ultrasounds prior to abortion as an “extreme” measure that interferes with a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Despite Planned Parenthood’s insistence it wants women to have “accurate” information, technologically “accurate” ultrasounds allowing women to see their developing baby don’t appear to be included.

From Planned Parenthood:

[U]nfortunately, a number of out-of-touch politicians in states across the country have moved forward with a line of attacks that put politicians in the middle of the personal, private, medical decisions that should be left to a woman, her faith, and her family in consultation with her doctors.

Some of these bills impose mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and force doctors to provide state-mandated, ideological scripts to their patients. An evaluation of Texas’s 2011 biased counseling law found the law does not enhance health information, but rather places unnecessary hurdles before a woman seeking to make a private medical decision. The law has the compound effect of making a woman feel ashamed, and adds additional costs to a safe and legal procedure.

“Dr. Carson can’t recall having ever referred anyone to an abortionist,” he continues, “but he’s concerned where people want to look at experimental things to improve their health – that you think are kind of crazy and they shouldn’t be looking at – but they want to and you want to give them the names of the most highly qualified person you can so they can have the additional information.”

“That’s really what he was speaking about,” Watts said. “But, there was no instance he can recall where he actually referred anyone for an abortion.”


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