After a somewhat heated debate on the local Ron Paul meet-up group mailing list, I decided it was time to tackle this topic.
This has been one of those grey areas of the Ron Paul campaign for awhile now and I've seen it put in a variety of ways by members of both the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps in order to claim support for Ron Paul from both sides of the proverbial fence.
One of the first things I wanted to show was the difference between the way he presents his views in two recent media appearances.
First is his interview on the television talk show The View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbljWBdSW30
And then we have his speech to the Family Research Council: http://www.frcaction.org/get.cfm?i=WX07L05
You'll notice how in the first video he carefully approaches the issue by making it an argument about late term abortions, which are already illegal under Roe v. Wade unless a physician deems it necessary to protect the woman's health. He makes almost no mention of the right of choice for early term abortions, opting to make an obvious emotional plea that doesn't line up with the facts.
The central holding of Roe v. Wade was that abortions are permissible for any reason a woman chooses, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable,’ that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks." The Court also held that abortion after viability must be available when needed to protect a woman's health, which the Court defined broadly in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton.
He opens his argument with the following exchange with Joy Behar:
Joy Behar: What about Roe v. Wade? I don't want the government telling me what to do with my body. How do you justify that?
Ron Paul: Well, I think the question is whether a baby that is unborn that weighs eight pounds, in the seventh, eighth month of gestation has any rights. Is it a person.
Joy Behar: Oh That's... but what about the first month, you know, when you usually get an abortion?
Ron Paul: Ok, so you're not for all abortion?
Joy Behar: I don't know, it would have to come up in a specific case.
Ron Paul: So you thin the line... so you don't want me to do an abortion on somebody that has an 8 pound normal baby.
Joy Behar: No of course not, but the... but if the...
Ron Paul: Ok, So you're not for abortion really.
He tries to establish here a false dichotomy, in almost clear contradiction with what Roe v. Wade actually covers, a point which will become rather relevant in a moment.
In the second video he openly rails against what he calls "one of the most despicable of all court rulings" and calls for the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision and the removal of the abortion issue from Federal jurisdiction.
Dr. Paul states in this speech:
And for my time that I've spent in politics as well as medicine, I've thought this issue through rather seriously and have written even a booklet on the right-to-life issue and the importance of the unborn. And I frequently tell the story about when I was a resident, that this issue came up. It was in the 1960s, when abortions were still illegal, but my professor was doing abortions and permitting abortions to defy the law. And I accidentally walked into a room where they were doing an abortion, and they delivered a two-pound fetus, an infant that was breathing and crying. And they took this baby and put it over in a basket in the corner, and they waited, pretended they didn't hear it and let it die.
That is an outrage.
And unfortunately, since that time, our Supreme Court has institutionalized that, and that is why I think one of the most despicable of all court rulings has been the Roe versus Wade, and that should be our goal, is to repeal Roe versus Wade.
This latter stance raises a few issues of its own which I'll attempt to address.
First off is the fundamental matter of the Constitutionality of Justice Harry Blackmun's decision.
The opinion of the Roe Court, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, declined to adopt the district court's Ninth Amendment rationale, and instead asserted that the "right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Douglas, in his concurring opinion from the companion case Doe v. Bolton, stated more emphatically that, "The Ninth Amendment obviously does not create federally enforceable rights." Thus, the Roe majority rested its opinion squarely on the Constitution's due process clause.
What this means is that there are certain rights that are fundamental to man and cannot be abridged. Consider the comments of Justice Arthur Goldberg (joined by Chief Justice Warren and Justice Brennan) in their concurring opinion in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965):
[T]he Framers did not intend that the first eight amendments be construed to exhaust the basic and fundamental rights.... I do not mean to imply that the .... Ninth Amendment constitutes an independent source of rights protected from infringement by either the States or the Federal Government....While the Ninth Amendment - and indeed the entire Bill of Rights - originally concerned restrictions upon federal power, the subsequently enacted Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the States as well from abridging fundamental personal liberties. And, the Ninth Amendment, in indicating that not all such liberties are specifically mentioned in the first eight amendments, is surely relevant in showing the existence of other fundamental personal rights, now protected from state, as well as federal, infringement.
The emphasis at the end is mine.
In this vein the Roe v. Wade decision defends those fundamental personal rights, that of a woman's right to privacy and the right to control her own body.
This also relates to the rights covered in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
What these together illustrate is the principle that a woman has the fundamental natural right to privacy and the right to control her own body, that the founding fathers and the Constitution recognize the principle of these rights and that they defend those rights through several of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights in a manner which precludes infringement upon them by either the state or federal governments.
So in his speech, Paul first makes a case about what he describes as a viable (his implication) fetus that was discarded in a trash can and left to die, before Roe v. Wade ever happened. Roe v. Wade actually moves to prevent such an act by forbidding late term abortions except to protect the mother's health, only allowing the mother the choice of control over her own body and not specifically over that of the fetus. This makes the issue not one of whether or not the mother has the right to kill her own child, but of whether or not she has control of her own body and whether or not to continue a pregnancy. If the child can survive outside of the mother, it is thus protected under Roe v. Wade.
If Paul's intention was truly to prevent late term abortions, he would be attacking Doe v. Bolton, the case that actually allows late term abortions in cases of a physician's decision to protect the health of the mother, not Roe v. Wade which prevents them after viability.
Given these issues, it becomes clear that his intention is not to benevolently remove the federal government from meddling with our right to choose, thus allowing the states to decide for themselves, or even to prevent late term abortions. His intention is specifically to remove the Constitutionally protected status from the issue as recognized by Roe v. Wade in order to facilitate the criminalization of abortions on the state level, something that cannot be done currently because of the Supreme Court's recognition of the natural rights of the woman that are reflected in and protected by the Bill of Rights.
With those points hopefully addressed, I'll move on to a more specific facet of this debate raised on the local meet-up mailing list.
There was a statement made about supporting Ron Paul because he supported a woman's right to choose not to fund abortions with tax dollars. The specific statement was as follows:
Ron Paul supports my pro-choice decision not to be COMPELLED to fund Abortions through TAXATION for women who make their own choice to have one.
This was followed by several other similar statements about sex education, public education, freedom of religion, medical history, border protection, welfare and charity.
The whole statement was meant to be a play on the "Pro-Choice" stance by actually turning it around to mean that Ron Paul gives the woman the choice not to support abortions with her tax dollars etc.
At first glance this may seem like a sound statement and a clever way of showing why she supports Ron Paul. However, this is another case where the issue is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. The actual reality of the issue more likely has the opposite effect of what she and the Pro-Life camp seem to think it would.
Under Paul's plan, he asserts that control of the issue would move out from under Federal control and become a state issue.
Currently federal tax dollars cannot be used to fund abortions since the passage of the Hyde Amendment over 30 years ago (Passed in 1976 with additional wording to allow for exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother in 1977).
However, on the state level 17 of the 50 states currently support the use of state tax dollars to fund abortions. Thus Paul's removal of federal government involvement would not change the issue of tax dollars being spent on abortions because the issue simply does not really exist to begin with. This is a case of smoke and mirrors.
Based on the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, the states would have the right, independent of the federal government, to continue to fund abortions with tax dollars and to keep abortions legal. Based on Paul's own Constitutional platform, the federal government would have no right to intervene in the state choices on the matter.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The only possible recourse Paul would have to fulfill his desire to ban abortion through the abolishment of Roe v. Wade would be to violate the very fundamental tenets of his Constitutional claims of wanting the federal government out of the issue, and thus attempting to pass wholly hypocritical legislation at the federal level to prevent the states from exercising their own Constitutionally protected right to govern themselves and create their own legislation on the matter. This would be acting precisely in the same vein as the Roe v. Wade legislation he decries as the federal government interfering in our person lives.
Thus we're left with quite a conundrum.
Now we could probably take this a few different ways, and from what I've seen that is precisely what people are doing.
On one hand you could argue that Paul is downplaying the issue to most media outlets and actually intends to have Roe v. Wade overturned and thus implement legislation that would abolish the right to have legal abortions by cutting the head off of the proverbial snake at the federal level.
On the other hand you could argue that while he personally might be strongly against abortion, he is simply playing to the desires of his different constituents in an attempt to achieve the larger goal of removing federal involvement in our personal lives and that he really does believe in the Constitutionally protected right of states to govern themselves, whatever ends that may lead to.
Fortunately we have Dr. Paul's own words to give us a clearer idea what his intentions really are.
Now, there's a couple of ways that that can be done. Of course, we could wait until we have our Supreme Court justices appointed for them to, when the time comes, to rehear a case like that and rule differently; that's taking a long time. We've been living with Roe versus Wade since 1973, and it hasn't happened.
My approach -- I certainly support that, but my approach is a little bit more direct, and it could happen much quicker, and that is accepting the principle that we can, as a legislative body and as a president -- we can remove the jurisdiction of this issue from the federal courts.
I have a bill called the We the People Act, and this addresses several subjects -- prayer in school, the marriage issue as well as the abortion issue -- which literally just takes it away from the federal courts, which means any state could pass a law passing a prohibition that could not be heard in the federal courts.
Now, the question I have and something I don't have the answer for is I wonder why we haven't done better with this approach in Washington. I don't get the support that I think we should have. We haven't had the support in the Congress. We had the majority for a good many years, we've had a pro-life president, but we have not moved in that direction, and we say, "Oh, yeah, I'm going to appoint judges, and we'll take care of that." This would go into effect immediately, and it occurs only with majority vote of the Congress.
So don't give up on that method. Make sure that when you're promoting your issues and promoting the cause of life, that you remember that principle. It can be found in my bill called We The People's Act.
He wants to pass legislation that would remove the possibility of these issues being Constitutionally protected at the federal level as the natural rights that they are. This would not only allow the states to pass legislation that would in effect be in violation of the Constitution's protection of natural rights, but would prevent anyone from having any recourse to have their grievances heard at the federal level and thus Constitutionally protected.
This seems to me to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Constitution in protecting the natural rights, freedoms and liberties of all of us.
This is the second troubling issue I've had with Ron Paul and his comments about roles of state and federal government, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The first issue was with a series of comments Ron Paul made about Christmas and I wrote an article on it entitled "Ron Paul makes some serious fallacious claims."
I want to be clear that I still definitely support Ron Paul for the 2008 Presidency, but I don't believe any decision to elect a candidate for such an important position should have such fundamental issues overlooked without due diligence and critical assessment.
It reminds me of the words of our 26th President and fellow Republican to Ron Paul, Theodore Roosevelt:
"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else." -President Theodore Roosevelt - Kansas City Star, May 7th 1918
Should we do any less for a candidate for that position? Given the opportunity to address issues before a candidate might gain that office?
Perhaps in closing we should ponder a few words by the great Thomas Jefferson, who Ron Paul has often been compared to.
Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights. (January 8, 1789)
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. (January 6, 1816)
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. (April 24, 1816)
We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it. (December 27, 1820)