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Rand Paul Takes Inconsistent Stance on Federal ‘Personhood’ Legislation

Jason Salzman

Sen. Rand Paul marked last week’s anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by arguing for the urgent passage of his federal ‘personhood’ legislation. But in 2013, he said he was in no rush to pass his own legislation, which, he claimed, was intended to spark a discussion.

Last week, on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul sent an email to anti-choice activists pledging to continue his hard-line commitment to end all abortion in America.

Paul, however, might not be in a rush to push through radical anti-choice policies, if his 2013 comments on anti-choice laws are any indication.

Paul, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, bragged that he’s “led the fight to end abortion on demand in America” by opposing “funding for abortion under Obamacare” and “taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood,” and by introducing the “Life at Conception Act” in the Senate.

The Republican from Kentucky enjoys a national grassroots network of support around his Life at Conception Act, which gives legal rights to a zygote (fertilized egg) as a “person” under the 14th, Amendment, thus banning abortion, as Paul explained in this video, “once and for all.”

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But when he trumpets the Life at Conception Act to hardcore anti-choice activists, as he did again last week, Paul fails to mention that he’s in no rush to pass his legislation.

That’s what Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a 2013 interview. Asked by Blitzer if the Life at Conception Act was designed “to overturn in effect, effectively Roe v. Wade,” Paul said:

I think it’s probably designed even more philosophically than that. It’s designed to begin the discussion over when life begins. And it’s not an easy discussion. And we’re divided as a country on it. So, I don’t think we’re in any real rush towards any new legislation to tell you the truth.

….

And I don’t think we’re ready yet for our society maybe to change any laws, but I think it’s worthwhile having the discussion, if we can keep it from being too much of a flippant discussion over this, that country, this and that, and that it’s an important philosophical foundation to the law of a civilization.” [emphasis added]

Paul’s attempt to cast his legislation more as a springboard for a discussion of when life begins than something he wants to pass right away is nowhere to be found in Paul’s promotional materials for the Life at Conception Act—which Paul’s email cited last week.

“But by passing a Life at Conception Act, you and I can end abortion in America!” Paul writes in a message urging people to lobby for his legislation. “The Supreme Court itself admitted in Roe that once Congress establishes the personhood of unborn children, they must be protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which explicitly says: ‘nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property.’

“Since the Supreme Court is waiting for someone to tell them who the law counts as persons, let’s not wait another minute!”

Pressed by Blitzer in 2013 about whether his anti-choice stance includes exceptions for rape and incest, Paul hedged, saying there are “thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved.”

That statement also conflicts with Paul’s own Life at Conception Act, which, as attorney Lynn Paltrow argues, would ban all abortion with no exceptions, even for rape, and subject pregnant women to criminal prosecution for a variety of crimes—in violation of their basic civil rights.

Paul’s office did not return an email seeking comment.

Paul, in another statement viewed as inconsistent with the Life at Conception Act, said in September that he was not opposed to Plan B, even though it could be banned if Paul’s personhood bill became law.

Paul’s hard-line support of “personhood,” as demonstrated in his backing of the Life at Conception Act, is seen by some, including his former medical partner, as a huge liability in his quest for the presidency, according to a New Yorker article published in October.

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