Rand Paul is a pro-life Senator from Kentucky who appears poised to become one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Although he has a strong pro-life voting record, Paul is making comments about abortion that are concerning pro-lifers.
As LifeNews reported earlier this year, Paul said in an interview that Republicans should agree to disagree on social issues.
Now, in a new interview, Paul says he doesn’t anticipate changing the laws on abortion and added that his belief that life begins at conception is a personal and religious one, not a scientific viewpoint.
“The country is in the middle (and) we’re not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise,” he says.
Paul talked about how abortion laws can and shoulder reflect a middle ground position on abortion between life beginning at conception and abortion on demand.
Paul is clearly pro-life, but pro-life voters expect a Republican nominee in 2016 who will lead on the pro-life issue towards approving Supreme Court judges who will overturn Roe and pave the way for banning abortions state by state or nationally.
He seems to think America is not pro-life enough to ban abortions, never mind that a majority of Americans have been consistently pro-life in polls for decades — so much so that Gallup recently called the pro-life majority on abortion the “new normal.”
Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air, gives this take on the interview:
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.
You can see what he’s trying to do with this answer. He’s pitching himself as a “different kind of Republican,” someone who can appeal to young voters and minorities in a way that no one else in the party can. One splashy way to do that is to position himself as a pro-life but modest, incrementalist candidate on abortion; not only will it make the left’s “war on women” demagoguery a bit harder but it might also reassure libertarians, not all of whom are as pro-life as the Pauls are, that he hasn’t completely sold out to conservatives in running for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, though, he’ll be lambasted for this by whoever ends up as the social-conservative champion in the primaries — maybe Huckabee, maybe Santorum, maybe (most dangerously of all for Paul) Ted Cruz. If abortion is morally equivalent to slavery, as many social cons believe, then Paul’s approach is intolerable. He’d have a moral duty to work with the legislature and the courts to ban it, whatever the political consequences. Paul can sustain an attack like that from Huck or Santorum, I think, because they’re niche candidates who aren’t competing with him for the wider grassroots conservative vote. I’m not so sure he can sustain it from Cruz, who is competing. The question for Cruz is, how forcefully does he want to push the “ban at all costs” position? It might give him an opening against Paul in the primaries but it’d also make things easier for Democrats in attacking him in the general. Paul is right about the polling on this. It’s purely a question of how the GOP wants to deal with the reality of it.
Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review offers the following:
David Axelrod asked him yesterday about his view of the issue, and he said that while his “personal religious belief” is that life begins at conception, the country would have to reach a consensus on the point before it could be made law. I don’t especially like the “personal religious belief” language, but if pro-lifers insisted on candidates who knocked every answer out of the park we wouldn’t have very many.
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Allahpundit, in the link above, asks whether Paul’s concession to political reality will be a problem for him in the primaries. It depends on which votes he needs, but it’s worth keeping in mind that his point is in no way a departure from anything Republican nominees have said for the last twenty years.
On 8 votes cast in the Senate during his tenure, Paul has a 100% pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
There is no doubt that Paul is pro-life and he’s touted he pro-life position repeatedly throughout the years.
But Paul is competing with other potential 2016 presidential candidates in a field that is vying to be the nominee following two very weak pro-life candidates in Mitt Romney and John McCain. The support for the pro-life movement for those candidates, despite the fact that they would have been head and shoulders better than pro-abortion President Barack Obama, was lukewarm at best.
The pro-life movement today is looking for red meat. Pro-lifer voters are less interested in strategic talking points on how to end abortion and more interested in candidates who will eviscerate abortion rhetorically on the campaign trail. Comments like the ones Rand Paul has made twice in the last few months will not serve him well if he wants to expand beyond his father’s libertarian base to become a serious 2016 presidential contender.
If Paul doesn’t offer the kind of red meat pro-life voters are demanding, they’ll quickly flock to someone like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, who have carefully built bridges with the pro-life movement by speaking in plan anti-abortion language pro-lifer voters understand.