Rand Paul's Abortion Comments Rile Conservatives: 'We Are Not Changing Any Of The Laws' Anytime Soon
In a recent interview, Rand Paul said something about abortion that put his fellow conservatives into a tizzy. When asked how hard he’d push to overturn Roe v. Wade if he ever became president, Paul gave an answer that put him at odds with just about every other Republican official in the country. Far from launching into a spiel about mothers murdering their babies, Paul replied that the country as a whole supports abortion rights, and as such, the law won’t be changing any time soon.
“I think where the country is, is somewhere in the middle, and we are not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise.” Paul said.
Note that this is far from a radical position. Paul basically said that he supports the status quo, and on the whole, the status quo is indeed somewhere in the middle (except, of course, for people in North Dakota, Mississippi, Texas, and a handful of other states where Republican legislatures have all but banned the procedure). Still, it was far too radical of a position for the modern-day GOP, for which opposition to abortion rights is as close to a guiding ideology as any other principle.
As such, Paul’s comments immediately elicited outrage from at least one prominent conservative.
"Maybe it was inarticulate, or maybe these are the senator's real feelings, but that last comment certainly set off alarm bells for social conservatives," said Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council. "Obviously, no president has the power to unilaterally ban abortion, but he does have the power to make the issue a priority -- something most Americans assumed Rand Paul would do."
There’s really only one path forward here for Paul, and that’s to immediately recant and apologize. He’ll almost certainly spend the next couple of weeks insisting that he “misspoke” (or, since this is Paul we’re talking about, attacking the media for misrepresenting his remarks), and assuring conservatives that he does really oppose abortion in any and all situations. That is, after all, the position suggested by his voting record: In March, he introduced the Life at Conception Act, which is more or less exactly what it sounds like.
Still, this episode is yet another illustration of how difficult it will be for Paul — and indeed, every prospective 2016 presidential candidate — to thread the needle between a successful Republican primary campaign and a general election. The GOP base has become sufficiently conservative that appealing to it all but requires Republicans to take positions anathema to the general public. His recent comments are most likely an attempt to expand his appeal beyond that base, but if the result of that move to the center is a flurry of denouncement by powerful conservatives, it won’t get him any closer to the White House than if he’d never made the pivot to begin with.