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The Real Problem With Rand Paul’s Abortion Comments

Rand Paul says his “personal religious belief” is life begins when it begins. If he wants to convince others about life, he needs to step up his game.


Allahpundit highlights what he calls an “eyebrow-raiser” from Rand Paul yesterday. Paul sat down with David Axelrod to discuss politics:

[Paul] notes that he believes that life begins at conception and points out, correctly, that the public takes a middle-ground approach to abortion in most polls. They support giving women a right to terminate in the first trimester, oppose giving them that right in the third trimester, and usually take a skeptical “if necessary” view of the second trimester. If anything, says Paul, current law is far too biased towards the pro-abortion view since it effectively allows for terminations in the third trimester too, which most Americans believe should be illegal. Axelrod, though, keeps pressing: What does that mean we should or could expect from President Paul once in office? Paul’s answer: Not much. Certainly not an all-out ban; there’s still much persuading to be done before most Americans come around to that view. Presumably, if public opinion changes while he’s in office, he’d consider a ban. If it doesn’t, presumably he wouldn’t. Maybe he’d try at least to bring the law in line with opinion by banning terminations in the third trimester, but judge for yourself at the end here whether you think he’d push on that.

Particularly considering the audience for this discussion, I’m not sure pro-lifers should be concerned by these statements. The fact is that a President Paul wouldn’t be able to enact an all-out ban on abortion. Paul is, like most pro-life libertarians, heavily concerned with changing people’s mind about abortion. These aren’t bad things. And, as Ramesh Ponnuru notes, Paul is the lead sponsor of the “Life at Conception Act.” He’s not exactly shy about his pro-life views.

But he does seem to have a weird way of expressing them. And a particularly unprincipled way, to boot. This might be political calculation, but considering he wants to be known for being principled as opposed to pandering, he needs to reconsider his statements.

Note, for example, Roger Simon’s writeup at Politico of the same discussion Rand Paul had with David Axelrod:

“I think the debate is about when life begins,” Paul said, stating the problem, but not the solution, something he has become very adept at doing. “Is it OK for an 8-pound baby to be aborted one week before delivery? If the mother says she’s anxious and wants to ‘kill myself,’ you can have the abortion one day before it’s due?”…

Axelrod asked Paul to state when he thinks life begins.

“My personal religious belief is that life begins at the very beginning,” Paul said.

He then said that currently the abortion debate in America is between those who believe in “all life and no abortion, or all abortion and no life.”

“I think the law will come down in between,” Paul said. “I think the public is in the middle.”

Emphasis mine. Excuse me? Who the hell cares what Paul’s personal religious beliefs are about when life begins? Why would that be a particularly religious belief in any case? I mean, yes, Cecile Richards is part of a cult that teaches “life began” for her children “when I delivered them.” Noted scientist Barbara Boxer moved the moment life begins to “when you bring your baby home.” And I vaguely remember my dad telling me that “life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies.”

None of these are actually when human life begins.

Because when human life begins is actually a completely separate question from whether people should be legally allowed to end another’s life.

We don’t know this directly from religion, ideology or my dad’s joke-telling, but human life begins at conception and the union of sperm and egg creates unique human beings. (I suppose we should note that the brilliant, thoughtful and highly respected Nancy Pelosi disagrees, calling this scientific view “dumb.”)

George Will responded to Boxer’s odd views about life beginning when the baby comes home from the hospital in a 2010 column. His words could just as well be directed to Rand Paul:

Boxer is caught in the intellectual chaos created by the Supreme Court’s slipshod 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. In it the court was squeamish about a stark fact: Abortion kills. Flinching from that, the court called a fetus “potential life.” But it is elementary biology that when the chromosomes of sperm fuse with those of an ovum, a new DNA complex is formed that directs the organism’s subsequent development. The serious argument about abortion, concerning which decent people differ, is about the moral significance and proper legal status of fetal life at various stages of the gestational continuum.

I like Rand Paul. A lot. But if he’s going to have any hope of being the type of leader who can convince people not to kill unborn children, he could begin by speaking clearly about what we know about when human life begins.

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