— -- Retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson today maintained his opposition to abortion, saying he believes life begins at conception, but he declined to say on "This Week" whether he feels there should be any exceptions, such as when a woman is impregnated during a rape.
"I believe that once conception has been achieved, that it is a human life," Carson told ABC News' Martha Raddatz when asked about whether he believes there should be an exception to abortion for rape and incest. "What I have said is that, you know, I have spent my life trying to save life, not trying to destroy it."
When asked for clarification of Carson’s response to rape and incest exceptions a spokesperson said, “Dr. Carson believes abortion is not acceptable after conception.”
He previously said that he hopes women would go to the emergency room and get an abortion pill in cases of rape or incest.
“I would hope that they would very quickly avail themselves of the emergency room, and in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer RU-486 and other possibilities before you have a developing fetus,” Carson told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Wednesday.
But former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is also in the crowded Republican field for the party's presidential nomination, firmly defended his no-exceptions position to abortion today when asked about a 10-year-old Paraguay rape victim who was denied access to the procedure.
"A 10-year-old girl being raped is horrible. But does it solve a problem by taking the life of an innocent child?" Huckabee said on CNN's State of the Union. "And I wouldn't even pretend that it's anything other than a terrible tragedy. But let's not compound the tragedy by taking yet another life."
Carson would not say whether he believes in any such exceptions to abortion, but did clear up when he thinks a human life begins.
"What I believe is life starts at conception. I've said there are a a lot of people who think that -- that [life begins] at the heartbeat," Carson said this morning. "And I think most people can come to the conclusion that once you have a heartbeat, that you clearly have a living organism."
He suggested on the same Fox News program last week that a human life certainly begins when there is a heartbeat.
Carson came under fire last week for his 1992 research on 17-week-old fetal tissue, but defended the use of the tissue for research.
“There is absolutely no contradiction between the research I worked on in 1992 and my pro-life views," Carson said in a statement to ABC News. "Killing babies and harvesting tissue for sale is very different than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it, which is exactly the source of the tissue used in our research."
Carson has been a vocal opponent of Planned Parenthood and has called to defund the group, after The Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos which the anti-abortion group alleges shows former and current Planned Parenthood employees discussing prices for fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood has called the videos "heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research."