INDIANOLA, Iowa — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry said Wednesday that he has "always struggled" with his position on abortion and clarified remarks he made a day earlier to indicate he would allow abortion if a woman's life were at risk.
The Texas governor, campaigning hard in the final week ahead of Iowa's lead-off Jan. 3 caucuses, had told a pastor Tuesday that he had undergone a "transformation" on abortion rights after meeting a woman, Rebecca Kissling, who said she was conceived during a rape. She was featured in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's anti-abortion documentary, "The Gift of Life," and Perry attended its Iowa premier.
A day later, Perry said he opposes abortion rights in cases of rape and incest, but would allow the legal procedure if the pregnancy threatened the mother's life.
"I think I've always struggled with that issue," Perry told reporters after meeting with voters in a sports bar. "After I went to see the movie a `Gift of Life' and had a conversation with Rebecca Kissling, and I really thought about this through the Christmas holidays and that's the conclusion I came to."
Asked if a mother's life was the only instance when he would allow abortion, he was concise as he boarded his bus: "That's correct."
In his push before Iowa holds its first caucuses, Perry is playing up his social conservative credentials. But his late shift on abortion drew questions about what exactly he believed on the issue many Iowans make their top priority.
A Time-CNN poll released Wednesday showed only 19 percent of those likely to caucus view cultural issues such as abortion and gay rights were unimportant to their selection of a candidate. A separate New York Times-CBS News poll earlier this month said 32 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers said they would not support and candidate who changed positions on abortion.
In Osceola on Tuesday, Perry told a voter he had changed his view.
"You're seeing a transformation," Perry said. "That transformation was after watching the DVD `Gift of Life,' and I really started giving some, some thought about the issue of rape and incest, and some powerful stories in that DVD."
He cited Kissling during that meeting at an electric co-op.
"When the lady who was in it was looking me in the eye and saying, `You need to think this through,' she said, `I am the product of a rape' and she said `my life has worth,'" Perry said. "It was a powerful moment for me."