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Rand Paul needs to clarify his stance on abortion

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. announces the start of his presidential campaign, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday with a combative message against both Washington and his fellow Republicans, declaring that "we have come to take our country back." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“The thing is about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you’re this or this or that, or you’re hard and fast (on) one thing or the other,” said Rand Paul, 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

This fundamental question needs to be answered and unfortunately, to some, it is up for heated debates.  Bottom-line up front: “these details” need to be addressed and clarified.  It is essential and core to the issue at hand.

When does life begin?

To answer this question, let’s look at a less debatable issue.  When does life end? 

One might argue that life ceases to exist when the heart stops and brain activity is no longer present.  According to Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary, the medical definition of death is “the irreversible cessation of all vital functions especially as indicated by permanent stoppage of the heart, respiration, and brain activity:  the end of life—see brain death.” 

By examining the medical definition of death, we can then come to the conclusion that the definition of life is when the heart begins to beat, the brain begins to function and respiration takes place.  The definition of respiration can vary depending on what you are talking about.  To relate this vital function to an unborn child you can look again at Merriam-Webster’s definition of respiration:  which is any of various energy-yielding oxidative reactions in living matter.  In the case of an unborn baby, the umbilical cord and placenta carry oxygenated blood through the circulatory system; this amazing developmental system does the work normally performed by the lungs until childbirth.

Now the question remains; when does life begin?  Since human beings are in a constant state of development, from the initial joining of cells until the time of our death, the answer is simple.

Life begins at conception. 

There can be no exceptions aside from a medical decision made by a doctor in an effort to safe the life of the mother, with all attempts made to preserve the life of the baby.

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press 

(AP) — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a newly declared Republican presidential candidate, is dodging a central question about abortion: What exceptions, if any, should be made if the procedure were to be banned?

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Paul would not say where, in his view, a pregnant woman’s rights begin and those of the fetus end.

“The thing is about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you’re this or this or that, or you’re hard and fast (on) one thing or the other,” Paul said.

In the past, Paul has supported legislation that would ban abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. At other times, he has backed bills seeking a broader abortion ban without those exceptions.

Campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Paul told the AP that people get too tied up in these details and it’s his conviction that “life is special and deserves protection.”

Paul entered the GOP race Tuesday and is this week campaigning in the first four states to vote in the nomination contest.

Exceptions in any abortion ban are a politically sensitive topic for Paul and some of his rivals. They want to nudge the party away from a focus on such social issues, but know that winning the nomination requires some backing from religious conservatives who press for strict, if not absolute limits on abortion.

In Iowa, where Paul will campaign Friday, Rev. Terry Amann of Walnut Creek Community Church near Des Moines said he saw no place for equivocation on the issue.

“I’m interested in finding a presidential candidate who is ready to die on the hill of pro-life,” said Amann, whose endorsement is sought by presidential candidates in the state’s opening caucuses. “No exceptions. No ambiguity.”

Paul has said previously the issue is too divisive to expect changes in federal abortion law. That has led some religious conservatives to raise questions about his commitment to their cause despite a voting record in their favor.

Paul grew testy when pressed in the interview on the question of exceptions. “I gave you about a five-minute answer. Put in my five-minute answer,” he said.

Paul said his test is whether abortion legislation protects life.

“I think the most important thing is the general concept of: Do you support the sanctity of life? Do you think there’s something special about life? So you think when we’re born that a human baby is different than an animal, that there’s something special that is imbued into human life? And I think there is.”

He added, “I’ve supported both bills with and without (exceptions), you know. In general, I am pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection.”

Abortion policy is a central issue in Republican politics. On Tuesday, Kansas became the first state to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus.

The measure approved by the state’s GOP-led Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee. It has been introduced in a few others states, including South Carolina, which votes third in the presidential primaries. Paul planned to campaign there Thursday.

Lisa Van Riper, president of South Carolina Citizens for Life, said what matters most is that Paul’s abortion record is better than Democrats, including likely presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“He’s willing to move the ball toward the preservation of as much life as he can,” she said. “The Democratic platform is willing to move the line further and further toward having no protection for intrauterine life at all.”

Polls show that a vast majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal is cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. Support for exceptions has not been disqualifying in recent Republican presidential primaries.

GOP nominees Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 each had caveats in opposing abortion rights.

An eye surgeon by training, Paul said he often examines newborns, some as light as a pound, in neonatal nurseries. Yet a fetus, even weighing more in the womb than a premature baby, is considered to have lesser or no legal rights, he said.

“Nobody really, sort of, questions whether they have rights,” Paul said. “They’re there, and if you do something to the baby or try to harm a baby in the neonatal nursery, that’s murder. Because everyone is in agreement that the baby is alive.”


Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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