Ron Paul’s Curious Position on Abortion in Cases of Rape

Opinion   |   Calvin Freiburger   |   Feb 7, 2012   |   6:38PM   |   Washington, DC

Libertarian Republican and presidential contender Ron Paul made headlines recently for an exchange with CNN’s Piers Morgan about how to handle rape pregnancies. Pro-aborts are scratching their heads wondering what “honest rape” means, while pro-lifers question just how pro-life the Texas Congressman really is:

MORGAN: You have two daughters. You have many granddaughters. If one of them was raped — and I accept it’s a very unlikely thing to happen. But if they were, would you honestly look at them in the eye and say they had to have that child if they were impregnated?

PAUL: No. If it’s an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room. I would give them a shot of estrogen or give them –

MORGAN: You would allow them to abort the baby?

PAUL: It is absolutely in limbo, because an hour after intercourse or a day afterwards, there is no legal or medical problem. If you talk about somebody coming in and they say, well, I was raped and I’m seven months pregnant and I don’t want to have anything to do with it, it’s a little bit different story.

But somebody arriving in an emergency room saying, I have just been raped and there is no chemical — there’s no medical and there’s no legal evidence of a pregnancy –

MORGAN: Life doesn’t begin at conception?

PAUL: Life does begin at conception.

MORGAN: Then you would be taking a life.

PAUL: Well, you don’t know if you’re taking a life either, because this is an area that is — but to decide everything about abortion and respect for life on this one very, very theoretical condition, where there may have been a life or not a life.

MSNBC’s Steve Benen claims that by “honest rape,” Paul really means that “American women are not to be trusted when it comes to rape claims,” a line which is “tragically common on the right.” Baloney. As someone active in pro-life and conservative commentary and activist circles, I’ve never encountered anyone who thinks that way, Paul included. Clearly, he’s just saying people shouldn’t be able to use false rape allegations to get abortions. With any criminal or medical matter, it’s pretty standard procedure to determine the facts of the situation, right Steve?

Sleazy insinuations aside, Paul’s position seems to be that, if you don’t know whether fertilization has occurred yet, then we should act as if it hasn’t and prevent it through contraception. But contraception doesn’t only prevent fertilization; it can function by keeping an already-fertilized egg from implanting. This is apparently okay because we’ll never know if we ended a life anyway.

That’s an awfully backward understanding of ethics. In most cases, morality and common sense command us to err on the side of caution in cases of ambiguity—to avoid even the mere possibility of doing harm—but Paul recommends that we do the opposite and use the ambiguity as an excuse. That certainly isn’t how President Ronald Reagan saw things:

I have also said that anyone who doesn’t feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.

It also runs counter to the Hippocratic Oath Dr. Paul has taken:

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

To dismiss the possible death of brand-new lives just because you can’t perceive them is worse than playing God—when God takes a life, He knows it and have a purpose in mind. I appreciate all that Ron Paul has said and done for the right to life, but his stance here desperately needs to go back to the drawing board. Note:  Calvin Freiburger is a Live Action contributing writer. This column appeared at the Live Action blog and is reprinted with permission.