Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain caused himself all kinds of trouble this week when he told a national television audience that he’s against abortion, but it’s “not the government’s role or anybody else’s role” to intervene in reproductive decisions. Cain said this is “ultimately a choice that that family or that mother has to make.” The decision, he added, shouldn’t be made by “some politician” or “a bureaucrat.” And “whatever they decide, they decide.”

“The government,” Cain concluded, “shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.”

That, of course, made it seem as if Herman Cain is a pro-choice Republican, though he claims to be the opposite. Many conservative activists, who were just starting to like Cain, were horrified.

So, yesterday, the presidential hopeful chatted with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum to try to undo the damage.

MACCALLUM: Do you believe that abortion should be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision [to abort]?

CAIN: No. I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country, if that’s the question.

MACCALLUM: So then you’re saying that if those circumstances come up and the family does make that decision, that they decide that that is the best thing for this young person or she decides that on her own, then if that’s what they decided, then it would be an illegal abortion that they would seek.

CAIN: 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.

Let me explain that last part. When Cain told CNN a few days ago that people should make their own “choices” and “decisions” when it comes to abortion, his new argument is that he only because people can choose or decide to break the law after he’s done outlawing abortions.

Seriously. That’s his new spin.

For Republican primary voters who take this issue seriously, Cain’s flailing explanation almost certainly won’t make his problem go away.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.