The Corner

Ron Paul on Abortion

“Law will not correct the basic problem, and that’s the morality of the people,” said Rep. Paul during his contribution to the abortion conversation in tonight’s debate. That’s an oversimplification. The law now treats the killing of the unborn as a constitutional right rather than an injustice, which is itself an injustice, and one that law can solve. Anyway, law and culture don’t exist in two separate, hermetically sealed boxes. Abortion rates went up quite a lot when abortion laws were liberalized, and as Michael New has shown in many studies, anti-abortion laws have reduced abortion rates. For at least the last fifteen years the pro-life movement has recognized that part of what it needs to do is enact more legal protection for the unborn, which will make the culture less pro-abortion, which will make further legal progress possible.

Paul also said that abortion was properly a matter for states to deal with, as other acts of violence are. That sent me back to look up why he voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which didn’t expand federal jurisdiction at all. It merely said that federal crimes against pregnant women — for example, the murder of a pregnant woman on federal property — would be treated as having two victims. It turns out that Paul’s statement treats the law as an expansion of federal authority because it expands the class of victims of federal crimes, which seems to me to be a screwy way of looking at it. (The statement also opposes the law because it doesn’t prohibit abortion, which seems to be in tension with the preceding argument.) Paul said that “by expanding the class of victims to which unconstitutional (but already-existing) Federal murder and assault statutes apply, the Federal Government moves yet another step closer to a national police state.”

None of this makes me think that Paul is anything other than a sincere pro-lifer: I’m sure he does genuinely think that state law should protect unborn children from violence. But anti-statism can lead people into nuttiness, and I think it did for Paul in that statement.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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