Rand Paul: I'm pro-life, but exceptions should be handled case by case

So confused am I by what he’s saying in the clip below that I’m not sure I’ve summed up his position correctly in the headline. The Blaze, wisely, didn’t even try. Their own post on this is simply titled, “CNN Asked Rand Paul About Abortion Exceptions: This Is How He Answered.” Here’s what we know: Not only is Paul pro-life, he just introduced the Life At Conception Act in the Senate, which would overturn Roe via a federal statute aimed at protecting due process for a fetus per Congress’s power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. So far, so good. Simple question from Wolf Blitzer, then: Would he make an exception for pregnancies caused by rape and those that threaten the health of the mother? That’s when things got … complicated.

I would say that, after birth, we’ve decided that when life begins, we have decided that we don’t have exceptions for one-day-olds or a six-month-olds. We don’t ask where they came from or how they came into being.

But it is more complicated, because the rest of it depends on the definition of when life comes in. So I don’t think it’s as simple as checking a box and saying, “Exceptions” or “No exceptions.”

I’ve been there at the beginning of life. I’ve held one pound babies in my hand that I examined their eyes. I’ve been there at the end of life. There are a lot of decisions made privately by families and their doctors that really won’t, the law won’t apply to. But I think it is important that we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeonhole and say, “Oh, this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family.”


“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,” he continued, “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.”

There’s more still, but I’ll leave you to the clip for the rest. It kind of sounds like he’s saying that it’s not always clear-cut early in a pregnancy whether “life” has begun yet, but he can’t possibly be saying that. He’s sponsoring the “Life at Conception Act,” for cripes sake. In which case, what’s he saying? Do note that when he ran for senator in 2010, he told Kentucky Right to Life that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. He never explicitly contradicts that here, but by backing an ad hoc approach that imagines “thousands of exceptions” based on “decisions made privately by families and their doctors,” he sure isn’t affirming it either.

I can only assume this is a particularly strained example of Paul trying once again to walk the line between libertarianism and traditional conservatism. (The second in as many days, in fact.) Trumpeting a “Life at Conception Act” earns him major points with the latter while alienating some of the former, so here he is trying to muddle through back into libertarians’ good graces with lots and lots of case-by-case loopholes. How would you even begin to codify what he’s suggesting here? Is he imagining an anti-abortion law that’s essentially hortatory? And isn’t that effectively pro-choice? (Sure is, says the Atlantic.) What am I missing?