"Whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue," Cain said.
On Thursday, Cain tweeted that he was "100% pro-life." He also issued a statement in which he said that he was trying to convey that as president, he had "no constitutional authority" to order someone not to seek an abortion. Cain went on to say that the would oppose government funding for abortion procedures, veto legislation that contains funds for Planned Parenthood and appoint judges who felt the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision was unconstitutional. But Cain did not explicitly say that he thought abortion should be illegal.
He was pressed on this point Friday by Martha MacCallum on Fox, at which point he said that abortion should be illegal, and that a woman impregnated during rape would be breaking the law if she sought an abortion under his ideal set of laws.
"It would be an illegal abortion. Look, abortion should not be legal — that is clear — but if that family made a decision to break the law, that's their decision," Cain said.
When MacCallum asked him to specifically clarify his comments on CNN, when Cain had been asked how he would react if his daughter or granddaughter had become pregnant during rape. Cain said he was trying to underscore that families in that situation would not be looking to the president to advise them what to do.
"The only point I was trying to make: a lot of families would be in that position, and they're not going to be thinking 'Well, what does the government want me to do?' " Cain said. "My position is no abortion, but all I was trying to point out was: take the typical family in this country, and you don't know what they might do in the heat of the moment."
Cain's Republican opponents have attacked him for the statements, arguing that the government should restrict abortion. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) sent a fundraising appeal to supporters Thursday night, saying he was "absolutely floored" by Cain's comments.
"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," Santorum wrote.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman's campaign also has denounced Cain's comments.
The topic will likely be a hot-button issue at Iowa's Faith and Freedom dinner on Saturday, an event that will draw at least 1,000 social conservative activists and at which all of the 2012 GOP candidates, aside from Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, will be speaking.