Update: After Paul's interview gained national attention, it appears his chief of staff is now clearing up what Paul meant by "thousands of exceptions" to his pro-life stance. According to an with interview Lifesitenews, a non-profit pro-life news site, Sen. Paul's chief of staff, Doug Stafford is insisting that Paul's "thousands of exceptions" only applies to when the life of the mother was at risk. They write:
Paul “was speaking medically,” Stafford said.
By “thousands of exceptions,” Stafford told LifeSiteNews.com, 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.
Stafford did not address Senator's position on abortions in the case of rape or incest in the interview.
Original: Republican Senator Rand Paul has described himself as "100 percent pro life" but on Tuesday, he told CNN that there are "thousands of exceptions" to the "Life at Conception Act" he introduced on March 15, which suggests that one of those two things is not precisely true.
Here is Paul's exchange with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room talking about his pro-life sounding bill:
Blitzer : Just to be precise, if you believe life begins at conception, which I suspect you do you would have no exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother is that right?
Paul: I think that once again puts things in too small of a box. What I would say is there are thousands of exceptions. I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different. Everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what is going on that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother…. There are a lot of decisions made privately by families and doctors that really won’t, the law won’t apply to, but I think it is important we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeon hole and say this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family and physician.
Blitzer: It sounds like you believe in some exceptions.
Paul: Well, there is going to be like I say thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved so I would say that each individual case would have to be addressed and even if there were eventually a change in the law let’s say people came more to my way of thinking there would still be a lot of complicated things the law may not ultimately be able to address in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family.
The idea that people shouldn't be boxed into a set of stringent rules set by others sounds ... familiar. Forget for a moment that the junior Kentucky Senator said this, and what you essentially have there is basically what pro-choice advocates have been arguing.
But not exactly the position that Rand Paul has been taking. He proclaims on his official Senate website, "I am 100 percent pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being. I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life," reads the Rand Paul website.
In the past, Paul has made it clear that being 100 percent pro-life does not allow for exceptions, as he has said in the past that he opposes even rape and incest exceptions to a ban on abortions. In 2010, Paul submitted answers to Kentucky's Right to Life Survey, a PAC which supports pro-life candidates. Though there was some controversy at the time of of whether or not he turned in a complete survey (it was debated whether or not Paul skipped a question on human cloning) he did answer that he did not support abortion in cases of rape or incest:
To be fair, Paul did not, by name, mention rape or incest as one of the "thousands of exceptions" the way he cites "health of the mother." But in 2009, during the early stages of Paul's Senate bid, the AP mentioned Paul's stance against this trinity of abortion exceptions. "Paul says he opposes abortion without exception, not even in cases of rape, incest or the health of the expectant mother," they reported.
Paul, recently, has been hammering home the point that all unborn fetuses deserve a right to life. "The right to life is prescribed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence," Paul said in January of 2011, the "Americans" he's referring to are unborn fetuses.
And Further, the whole reason Paul is talking to Blitzer is because Paul introduced Senate bill 583 on March 15, otherwise known as Life at Conception Act, otherwise known as the bill that wants to give fetuses equal protection and legal protection under the law. This law would essentially bar abortion and chip away at the privacy protection Roe v. Wade established. Paul said:
The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known- that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward ... The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress.
Paul, who's promising guarantees to fetuses, does not sound like the guy who went on CNN on Tuesday and sounds like he's undermining his own bill. Which sort of brings us to the ask, why? Think Progress believes it might be that Paul is laying down the ground work for a Presidential run, the optics look like he might be taking a page out of Paul Ryan's playbook and the softening on his own abortion stance during the campaign. Though, in the last election Ryan's softening on abortion didn't do enough to sway women voters some of whom were alienated by the Republican pushback to Obama's contraception mandate, and Republican insensitivity to issues like rape. If Paul is indeed eyeing a 2016 run, this may be how it starts:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.