There's one "culture war" issue that seems to cause anxiety for many Republican politicians. Opposing reproductive rights in general and wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade is usually pretty easy for GOP candidates, but support for "personhood" has become something of a third rail. Given recent developments, it's understandable -- personhood measures wouldn't just ban all abortions, they'd also block common forms of birth control.
And Republicans clearly realize that opposing birth control in the 21st century, when the party is already struggling with the gender gap, isn't a credible option.
As a result, we see far-right Senate hopefuls like Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and other ardent personhood supporters suddenly scramble to distance themselves from their previous position. Each of them assume the key to joining the Senate is backing away from an extremist policy like this one.
But let's not forget that there's already an enthusiastic personhood supporter in the Senate. Ryan Lizza reports
on one of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) most controversial proposals:
In recent Profile of Senator Rand Paul, Dr. John Downing, the Senator’s friend and former medical partner, expressed his worries about Paul’s sponsorship of the Life at Conception Act, also known as the personhood law. The bill would ban abortion and grant the unborn all the legal protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, beginning at "the moment of fertilization." To Downing, who is an ardent Paul supporter, this seemed like political madness. Downing said that he believed Paul's personhood law would make some common forms of birth control illegal, and thus doom Paul's Presidential hopes. "He's going to lose half or more of women immediately once they find out what that would do to birth control," Downing told me.
Part of the Kentucky Republican's pitch is that he can be a national GOP leader by appealing to young people with his message of limited government. On the other hand, Rand Paul introduced -- and has fought aggressively in support of -- federal legislation that treats a fertilized egg as a full-fledged human being with constitutional rights, which in turn would prohibit any form of birth control (IUDs, emergency contraception, etc.) that prevents that egg from implanting in a uterine wall.
One assumes many younger voters, most notably women, might have a problem with that, especially coming from a candidate whose raison d'etre is ostensibly opposition to "big government."
All of which brings us to last week, when Rand Paul seemed to hedge on his own legislative commitment.
American Bridge posted this item
Paul was asked today in South Carolina about his position on the morning-after pill, and he affirmed his support for it. Which is all good and well, except that he brags about introducing personhood legislation that could make it illegal. He’s consistently been one of the most extreme politicians in Washington when it comes to women’s issues. Just check out this video that he recently scrubbed from his YouTube account. Now Rand Paul thinks he can lie his way to the middle and twist himself into a candidate with broad appeal. It seems every week, you wake up and Rand Paul is selling a new version of Rand Paul.
Lizza's report, which noted that religious-right activists were not at all pleased with the senator's position, added, "Paul, having spent the last few years convincing pro-life activists that he firmly believes that the state should protect fertilized eggs the same way it protects all Americans, now simply shrugs at pro-life concerns over emergency contraception."
All of which is made worse when one considers how many other issues
Rand Paul has changed his mind about, shrugging at other positions he also used to hold dear.