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Rand Paul And The Culture Of Life

When most people think of Republican politicians who are leading the fight against abortion and for the “culture of life,” they generally think exclusively of people like Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator and perennial presidential candidate.  Now, Santorum is a decent and principled man, and he represents an interesting and important part of the Pro-Life coalition.  But, he and “social conservatives” more generally have a difficult time making headway on many important matters because they strike everyone in the media—and with the media’s help, a few too many voters—as wanting to harness the power of the state to interfere in Americans’ private lives.

Given this, the best thing to happen in a great many years for those of us who believe in and champion the cause of life is the presidential candidacy of Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky.

Now, we have our doubts about whether Paul can be a successful candidate, much less a successful president.  Among other things, his isolationist stand on foreign affairs and his reticence to use the government to get involved in civil rights matters might be a hard sell.  That said, he may nevertheless be the perfect candidate to advance the Pro-Life cause, for a handful of reasons.

For starters, Paul is a “man of science,” if you will.  He is a physician, an ophthalmologist.  He is also the son another physician, a very Pro-Life OB/GYN.  He is not, therefore, and cannot be easily caricatured as, a know-nothing dimwit in the mold of Todd Akin.  Akin, you may recall, is the former member of the House of Representatives and unsuccessful candidate for Senate from Missouri, who blew up his own electoral chances three years ago and provided the Pro-Choice Left with a powerful and convenient poster boy, when he declared that “legitimate rape” does not often lead to pregnancy because women’s bodies “shut down.”  Akin was a disaster for the Pro-Life side because he provided a perfect example of the Pro-Choice and media stereotype of Pro-Lifers as poorly educated in matters of biology and reproduction.  That’s not going to happen to Senator Dr. Rand Paul.

Paul is also a fantastic Pro-Life candidate because he is, more or less, a libertarian.  He is a little less libertarian than his father, and a lot less libertarian than the guys whom the capital-L Libertarian party will run for president.  But he is, nonetheless, the most liberty-oriented, small-government-supporting candidate in the political mainstream in a long time.

This is important because it gives lie to the notion that protecting the lives of the unborn somehow constitutes “big” government intervention into the personal affairs of citizens.  Pro-Choice candidates constantly couch their support for abortion rights in terms of liberty and freedom from government, which they insist is being pushed by Pro-Lifers to restrict “choice.”  As a libertarian, Paul strongly agrees that the government should never step beyond its core functions.  Yet, he realizes – and argues – that the preservation of life is one of those core functions, without which the social contract between government and citizen means nothing.

As Thomas Jefferson noted some 239 years ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  A government that cannot protect life, cannot protect liberty or property.  Indeed, it cannot function as a government at all.  And as a libertarian, Rand Paul makes these arguments central to his case against abortion, dispelling the notion that government is somehow overstepping its bounds by acting to protect life.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – Paul is not afraid to discuss matters of abortion.  Indeed, if you paid any attention to his candidacy over the last week, you likely noticed that he is willing, even eager, to take up the issue.  He thinks – rightly, we believe – that abortion can be a winning issue for Republicans.  He understands what far too many in politics and in the campaign for life have forgotten, namely, the fact that the Democrats and the Pro-Choicers are the extremists on abortion and are thus out of touch with the American people.

In an essay last week celebrating Senator Paul’s campaign launch, the superb Mollie Hemingway noted that Paul had, in the first days of his official campaign, managed to “expose the media’s serious double standards.”  He did that and much more.  He also put the Democrats on the defensive, responding forcefully, yet calmly, to charges of extremism that were leveled against him at the Democratic National Convention nearly three years ago.

We always seem to have the debate waaaaaay over here on what are the exact details of exceptions, or when it starts.  Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?  You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s OK with killing a seven-pound baby that is just not yet born.  Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life.  When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz – the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and probably the second best thing to happen to the Pro-Life movement in many years – walked right into the trap laid for her by Paul, responding, “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved.  Period.  End of story.”  What this means, therefore, is that the Pro-Choice elements of the Democratic Party – which is to say the majority of the party establishment, including the official party apparatus – are now on record supporting abortion at all times, under all circumstances, for any reason.  Or as Senator Paul noted subsequently:

It sounds like she has said that it’s a private decision, whether it’s a seven-pound baby, an eight-pound baby or nine-pound baby . . . . And so yeah, I think that’s alarming.

I know a lot of people who aren’t necessarily pro-life who have mixed feelings on these issues.  They might even be pro-choice.  But not many of them I know are big fans of third trimester abortions of seven, eight, nine-pound babies.

This was, in short, a brilliant bit of gamesmanship on Paul’s part.  Not only did he get Wasserman Schultz to commit herself and her party to support procedures that are currently forbidden by federal law – i.e. partial birth abortion – but he got her to commit to a position that the overwhelming majority of Americans think is utterly horrific.  In a piece for National Review Online, Ian Tuttle described just how terribly how out-of-touch and how extreme the position taken by the chair of the DNC truly is.  To wit:

Democrats’ unrelenting support for abortion anytime during pregnancy is wildly out of step with the American public.  Only one in four Americans thinks abortion should be legal under any circumstances, according to 2014 polling results from Gallup.  The Pew Research Center puts the number even lower, at one in five.  There is, moreover, little difference between men and women on this question, with support for unrestricted abortion among women only 4 percentage points higher than among men, according to Pew.  In 2012, Gallup found that 61 percent of respondents supported legal abortion during the first three months of pregnancy, but only 27 percent supported legal second-trimester abortions.  A measly 14 percent thought abortion should be legal in a pregnancy’s final three months.

It may be difficult to remember now, but for most of the 1990s, the Pro-Life side of this argument largely won the public debate.  It did so by focusing on partial-birth abortion and using it to demonstrate to the American people just how radical the Pro-Choice/Democratic position is.  Over the past 15 years, however, the Pro-Lifers in Washington have abandoned this successful strategy and have somehow allowed the media and the Pro-Choice side to portray those who would protect the unborn as “extremists.”

Last week, with the launch of his presidential campaign, Senator Rand Paul turned the proverbial tables again and placed the onus of extremism back where it belongs, on those who would permit the killing of full-term babies and call it a “private choice.”  Voters may not agree with Paul on everything and may indeed question his suitability for the presidency.  Nevertheless, we couldn’t be more pleased that he’s running.  He demonstrated both his integrity and his political dexterity last week, and we are quite happy to have him on the side of Life.