Rand Paul has a tendency to talk out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to abortion, but his response on Thursday night to a question about Roe v. Wade reached a new level of incoherence.
The question was clear enough. Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Paul if he "favored the idea that abortion should be a states' rights issue" and that "if a liberal state wants to make it legal, that's their choice."
Paul's response: Well yes. But also no. But also yes.
The Kentucky senator initially sidestepped the question with some free form poetry about virtue, but Wallace pushed him to answer, and so Paul offered the following:
Both a federal and a state approach. I have said we could leave it to the states, but I have also introduced a federal solution as well. So the federal solution would be the Life at Conception Act, which is an act that would federalize the issue. But I've also said, for the most part, these issues would be left back to the state.
Roe v. Wade nationalized the issue. If you actually had the court reverse Roe v. Wade, it would become a state issue once again. I think it would be better, the less abortions we have. So the more states we have that made abortion illegal, the better, as far as trying to save and preserve lives.
Now here's what Paul has actually put out in terms of policy: the Life at Conception Act, a total ban on abortion.
According to the text of Paul's proposal, which he recently reintroduced in the Senate, the 14th amendment would endow eggs with full legal rights at the moment of fertilization—literally before there are even sufficient hormones present to turn a pregnancy test positive. That means that abortion would be banned in all circumstances, since terminating a pregnancy would become the definitional equivalent of homicide.
There are also unanswered questions about the bill when it comes to its impact on methods of birth control that may prevent implantation, like the copper IUD when used as a form of emergency contraception.
Paul has refused to clear any of this up to anyone. He has not meaningfully answered questions about whether or not criminalizing abortion at the moment of conception would mean incarcerating doctors who perform abortions. (I tried to ask him about this twice, and he shut himself in his car both times.)
He has also contradicted himself, and the bill he introduced, when asked about exceptions.
Here's Paul in 2013 during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
What I would say is there are thousands of exceptions. I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different. Everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what is going on with that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother. […]
There are a lot of decisions made privately by families and doctors that really won’t, the law won’t apply to, but I think it is important we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeon hole and say this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family and physician.
Now here's the relevant text of Paul's Life at Conception Act:
[The] Congress hereby declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being.
In this Act: (1) HUMAN PERSON; HUMAN BEING.—The terms “human person” and “human being” include each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.
And now here's Paul in a recorded statement he released in 2012 about the Life at Conception Act: according to Paul himself, the proposal would “ban abortion once and for all."
You'll notice that he did not say, "ban abortion once and for all—except in states where it's legal." Or "ban abortion once and for all—except in the thousands of cases in which it wouldn't be banned."
Paul has said he wants to radically shrink the size of the government. When it comes to abortion, his policies would make the government small enough to fit perfectly inside your uterus.