Say what? Rand Paul: When life begins is a ‘difficult question’

Senator Rand Paul (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Senator Rand Paul (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Pro-lifers are used to seeing the public pronouncements of Republican politicians vary wildly from awesome to abysmal, but it’s rare to see a single figure embody both ends of the spectrum as dramatically as Rand Paul. One minute the Kentucky senator and libertarian presidential candidate is endorsing abortifacient birth-control drugs and suggesting there could be “thousands of exceptions” for which abortion would be allowed —the next, he’s pushing excellent pro-life legislation and brutally calling out the Democrat Party’s pro-abortion extremism.

With his challenge to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz over whether she’s down with killing 7-pound babies being so fantastic, the pendulum was due for a swing back to nonsense territory. This past week, Paul told talk-radio host Dom Giordano, “I didn’t run for office because of the social issues,” elaborating with a discussion alarmingly confused on the facts:

“I think [abortion should be handled] best by the states,” Paul replied.

“I think the question that still divides us, and it’s a difficult question, is when does life begin,” Paul, an eye doctor, added. “I think we go down all kinds of rabbit holes talking about other stuff, but I’m an ophthalmologist, and I see one, two-pound babies in the neonatal nursery. I look into their eyes to try to prevent a form of blindness that is now preventable.”

“And everybody agrees that that one-pound baby has rights,” he said. “If someone were to hurt that one-pound baby in the neonatal nursery, it’s a problem. That baby has rights. But we somewhat inconsistently say that seven-pound baby at birth or just before birth has no rights. And so I think these are questions we have to sort out. We just have to figure when we agree life begins.”

There are two problems here. First, Paul comes from a branch of libertarianism so suspicious of government power it often prefers federal inaction even when the feds do have a constitutional role. Thus we see him failing to appreciate that the Fourteenth Amendment makes abortion a national concern, as a matter of Americans being denied equal protection of the laws—even while making the Constitution a major theme of his campaign.

Annoying as it is to misplace abortion on the federalism scale, that’s a matter of political mechanics that in practice won’t matter anyway until Congress is finally ready to act on a federal abortion ban. A far more pressing concern is Paul’s nonsensical assertion that “when does life begin” is “a difficult question,” which we still need “to sort out” and “figure when we agree” on.

This isn’t the first time Paul’s fumbled here, either. In an April 2014 event at the University of Chicago, he told ex-Obama aide David Axelrod that it was only his “religious and personal belief” that “life begins at the very beginning,” and that when all was said and done, the law would end up somewhere in between the “extremes” of pro-lifers and abort supporters.

Good grief, man, you went to medical school. Your father was an OB/GYN. Shouldn’t you be among the best qualified in Congress to knock this one out of the park? The fact that the science of embryology is so overwhelmingly, inarguably settled is one of the first things drilled into any pro-lifer after…oh, five minutes or so in the movement.

It’s not “difficult” to know what embryology books say. It’s not “difficult” to know how modern biology defines an organism. And it’s not “difficult” to know whether an organism is human or not.

So enlighten us, Senator: what is the difficult part? Which factual aspect of embryology is so murky that you can’t just say it? You talk about the public needing to sort it out; wouldn’t the best thing toward that end be to have a high-profile public figure with a medical background simply explain it to them? And why on earth would you play into pro-aborts’ hands by suggesting the question is ultimately religious and personal rather than scientific and objective?

Consider this a public service announcement to all politicians still struggling with how to talk about abortion in a way that’s pleasing to pro-lifers and undecided voters alike: it doesn’t take focus groups or overpaid strategists or hack consultants. Just read us. Whether it’s Live Action, Abort73, Josh Brahm, or Scott Klusendorf, those of us who spend every day talking to people about abortion in the real world have this figured out much better than the Beltway crowd. It’s not that hard. Trust me.

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