Sen. Rand Paul has clarified controversial comments he made in a recent CNN interview, during which he described “thousands” of exceptions to a potential ban on abortion.
The comments created a stir in the pro-life movement about how genuine the potential 2016 presidential candidate’s pro-life views are on abortion.
Paul has said he believes life begins at conception, but in an interview with CNN, he made a curious statement.
“What I would say is that there are thousands of exceptions,” Paul told CNN host Wolf Blitzer in response to a question about exceptions to a ban. “You know, I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different and everything’s going to be particular to that individual case and what’s going on with that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother.”
Paul also raised eyebrows when he said Americans aren’t ready to ban abortions, saying he doesn’t think Americans are ready to “change any laws.”
“My intention is to bring it forward and to have a healthy philosophic and moral discussion over what we should do, what the state should be involved with, when should life be protected. And I don’t think we’re ready yet, our society, maybe, to change any laws, but I think its worthwhile having the discussion if we can keep it from being too much of a flippant of a discussion over this that concrete this and that,” he said.
Paul spokesman Doug Stafford said in an interview with LifeSite yesterday that the Kentucky lawmaker’s remarks were misunderstood.
Senator Paul “believes life begins at conception,” he said, adding “He is pro-life. That’s why he introduced the Life at Conception Act. That’s why he spoke at the March (for Life).”
After the interview, the Atlantic Wire ran a story with the headline “Rand Paul Isn’t 100% Pro-life Anymore,” arguing that the language Paul used in his answer sounded remarkably similar to pro-choice rhetoric claiming abortion should always be a private matter between a woman and her doctor.
But Paul’s chief of staff, Doug Stafford, said the Atlantic got it wrong.
Paul “was speaking medically,” Stafford said.
The senator, he said, “was trying to say that while he believes in all of these things and will keep pushing them, he won’t succeed soon because the country isn’t there yet. I think public opinion polls show that. The country is at best split, and we don’t yet have a culture that fully supports life.”
As far as the exceptions are concerned, Paul’s spokesman told Life Site “Paul meant that a singular exception to save the life of the mother would likely cover thousands of individual cases – for example, ectopic pregnancies or others that directly threaten the mother’s life.”
The senator is not in favor of the more nebulous “health of the mother” exception that pro-life advocates argue can be applied to any woman facing an unwanted pregnancy.
But what about Paul’s statement that the Life at Conception Act may not be able to address early abortions? That, too, was a misunderstanding, according to Stafford. He said the senator was talking about things like emergency contraception pills, which may cause very early abortions, but since they contain the exact same drugs used in standard birth control pills, the senator believes they will be nearly impossible to ban.
Senator Paul “has always said it is not practically possible to legislate things like the morning after pill or other emergency contraception,” Stafford said. “It simply isn’t possible to do so. The law will likely never be able to reach that.”
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“You can legislate abortifacients like RU-486, and he would,” he said. “But you can’t legislatively ban artificial estrogen and progesterone.”
According to the National Right to Life Committee, Paul has a 100% pro-life voting record while in the Senate — casting five pro-life votes out of a possible five during his tenure. Paul voted for preventing Obama’s pro-abortion HHS mandate, voted against limiting pro-life free speech, voted to block Obamacare funding, to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and to repeal Obamacare entirely.
Paul is certainly pro-life, but he will have to avoid these kind of comments in the future that lend questions about how sincere he is on the topic. That is especially the case if he enters the 2016 race for the Republican nomination. In 2012, pro-life candidates frequently attacked each other and used specious arguments to make it appear other candidates were not pro-life or not as pro-life. Paul opens himself up to this kind of criticism with comments making it appear he is not consistently pro-life.