Senator and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul recently ran into a bit of trouble over the lack of alignment of his libertarian views with his views on marriage equality. It seems that the candidate who used to have a “government hands off” view on same-sex marriage now finds it “offensive” just in time to be more appealing to conservative Republicans.
All the Republican candidates are getting asked about their views on what has pretty much become a non-issue for most Americans, in the odd form of journalists wondering whether various candidates would actually attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. So far, Paul has avoided that question, but he probably should have a response at the ready, as this has apparently become the go-to same-sex marriage question in the media.
Rand Paul thinks it’s just fine if people who want to marry someone of the same sex make do with a “contract” that “conveys certain things” (benefits, I would guess, which he didn’t specify) and that “real” marriage be left to real-marriage appropriate people, i.e., heterosexual couples, so that it can remain sacred, holy, with its “religious connotation” intact. But when you examine Mr. Paul’s reactions to real questions about same-sex marriage, it becomes clear that he belongs to the “separate but equal” school of human rights, the school that should actually be called “separate and it will never be equal.”
As bad as his position is on marriage equality, his positions on abortion and reproductive rights are so much worse. And that’s where he’s going to run into some “lady problems” for 2016. Women are not just second-class citizens to Rand Paul the way members of the LGBTQ community are; they are without a right to life when it comes to their own pregnancies.
Rand Paul has co-sponsored personhood amendments that would outlaw all abortions. He has signed on to versions with and without exemptions for pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother and pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. When recently questioned about the lack of exemptions in some of his legislation, he has a couple of non-answer answers:
“We should ask the other side, do you think there’s nothing special about life? Do you think there are no rights involved in a seven- and eight- and nine-pound baby?”
And then there was this one, that could hardly be called a “win” in the Paul camp:
“Ask her [Democratic Congresswoman and Chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz] when life begins, and you ask Debbie when it’s okay to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, get back to me.”
He should have known Wasserman Schultz would have the perfect comeback:
“Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women — but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of ‘personal liberty’? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ’shushing’ me.”
So let’s look at these very recent statements about his opinion on abortion. In both he emphasizes “life.” But in both cases that generic term “life” refers only to the fetus. Nowhere does he address or even briefly allude to the life of the pregnant woman — without whom there would. be. no. fetus. Instead, he repeatedly talks about abortion in terms of killing “a seven-pound baby in the uterus,” fanning the flames by totally ignoring the fact that the vast majority of abortions are performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus weighs about 1/2 ounce and dismissing any danger that pregnancy might to a woman’s life.
For Rand Paul, apparently, women’s lives are not worthy of consideration.
I am not over-stating this — it is the logical conclusion based on Rand Paul’s own statements and lack of statements. He refuses to make clear his view on exemptions to a “personhood” bill, a bill that confers the same rights to a fetus as a real living, breathing person. By this refusal, he leaves in place the lack of an exemption that would protect the life of a pregnant woman.
If there is no exemption even for that, he is, in effect, stating that the newly defined human rights of the fetus trump those of the woman carrying the fetus. He is saying that the 1/2 ounce embryo’s existence is of greater value than the woman carrying that embryo. Without the exemption for life of the “mother,” he is advocating the death penalty for women whose pregnancy is killing them.
If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at Savita Halappanavar who died in agony in Ireland in 2012, because the doctors wouldn’t perform a life-saving abortion since there was still a fetal heartbeat. Irish law on abortion and Rand Paul’s views align very nicely.
The larger point here is not the very real but small number of deaths that would be a consequence of draconian personhood laws, it’s the devaluation of women as individuals, the refusal to allow women the same rights and protections that men have. And it’s nothing less than the criminalization of women of childbearing age — because if fetuses are full persons whose rights trump those of the women carrying them, then women can be monitored, fined, and even imprisoned as part of preserving the life of that so-precious fetus. And that’s not absurd exaggeration, it’s already happening in some states. Indiana, I’m talking about you!
In light of Senator Paul’s determined efforts to escape any real discussion of his woman-endangering views on abortion rights, I’d say that he has some serious “lady issues” in his bid for the White House. Perhaps Rand Paul thinks the next step after personhood is to give fetuses voting rights, with the men of his party deciding what their votes will be.
For almost 20 years, Marti Teitelbaum used her doctorate in public health working for the Children’s Defense Fund, producing most of their numbers on children’s health, disability, health insurance, Medicaid, and immunization. Marti is the mother of two high-energy young women (a twenty-something dedicated social worker, and a 15-year-old emerging band photographer), and is married to a psychiatrist who devotes half his work life to a child mental health clinic.