A reader puzzles about Ron Paul’s attitude to abortion after rape

Here’s the vid:

Ron Paul reflects the tortured attitude most Americans have toward the moral quandary of abortion after rape. He is, like most Americans, ultimately inconsistent and conflicted. He believes that innocent human life exists from the moment of conception–and he would destroy that life in the case of a rape if necessary. His method for coping with that is to shroud the matter in fog and say, “We don’t know if the victim is pregnant, so we will administer estrogen which can have both a contraceptive and abortifacient effect and then choose not to know or think about what we may or may not have killed.”

I disagree with Dr. Paul on this, of course. His action is the equivalent of saying “There’s a rustling in the bushes. It may be a bear or it may be a hunter. I will fire into the bushes and then not look to find out what, if anything, I have shot.”

So is this a deal-breaker for me should Dr. Paul be on the ballot?

Two points: First, there’s no deal to break since I have never been committed to voting for him. I’ve merely found him to be refreshing in contrast to the other candidates and he does not advocate any policies that involve me in supporting mortal sin.

Second, I don’t think this would dissuade me from voting for him since he advocates no policy here. He simply gives the (perfectly predictable) gut answer to what he, personally, would do in a crisis/rape situation. As critics have perpetually reminded me, we are not looking for a saint or a flawless moral theologian. True. I’m just looking for somebody who will not enact policies worthy of the everlasting fires of hell. Paul still does not seem to me to be advocating any gravely and intrinsically evil policies, so I would still consider him. He wants to get rid of Roe and turn the matter over to the states like a typical libertarian. Unlike every other GOP candidate, I think he means exactly what he says. It’s not the final answer to the problem, but it’s certainly a start.

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  • Kirt Higdon

    Well, this could definitely effect my vote. I have heard it said before by Catholic theologians that a rape victim can take such measures to protect against pregnancy as persuading the rapist to wear a condom (this has actually been done in some instances) or using some kind of spermacide in the aftermath. I’ve never heard the issue raised of using something which might be both contraceptive and abortifacient. Is this an example of possible double effect or intrinsically wrong? Is it comparable to operations for ectopic pregnancy or uterine cancer which, I understand, are morally licit although they kill the baby most of the time. I would really appreciate it if someone with a good theological background could chime in on this. Thanks.

  • Linda C.

    Astonished that people still seem to think that THE problem with pregnancy resulting from rape is the pregnancy.

    Men! STOP Raping Women! We have to stop accepting rape as some sort of inevitability.

    • DTMcCameron

      Crime and evil are sort of…understood, in this fallen, mortal world. Not that certain types don’t think they can prescribe, train, breed, or snip away until the human condition is…cured.

      I can only suggest that people arm themselves heavily, train themselves thoroughly, and conduct themselves cautiously.

  • vickie

    It was a good discussion in that the interviewer was pressing him on this in a repectful way. And Paul does not give carte blanche for women in rape cases to be able to get an abortion anytime. But yes he is saying you can treat and hope it was not a human life. It is place where he is wrong.

  • Ted Seeber

    Linda’s got a good point, but maybe we should start by teaching that it is NOT the right of human beings to have as much sex as they want:

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’m further confused on doing a little research since several commentators state that an estrogen shot would prevent neither conception nor implantation and one states that it might even cause ovulation thereby elevating the chance of pregnancy. If this is true, then Paul is not advocating anything anti-life but apparently he does not realize this. I have to admit this inclines me not to vote at all or to write in Mark Shea. That’s probably what I’ll do unless someone can persuade me that Dr. Paul knows what he is talking about and that what he says is not contrary to Church moral teaching.

    • After years of hearing Ron Paul’s supporters point to his expertise related to abortion, owing to the fact that he is a doctor, I can’t imagine leaning on any ignorance on his part regarding what is involved.

    • Kate

      He probably mis-spoke. Or has been misquoted. There is a valid ethical position that would allow for giving progestin (what is found in some contraceptive pills as well as Plan B) immediately after rape in order to prevent/delay ovulation if it has not yet occurred and deny the rapist’s sperm the chance to fertilize an egg. The argument rests on proportionality – since there is a little over a week per cycle in which the assault could result in pregnancy, but only about 24 hours of that occurs during/after ovulation.

      Most pregnancies result from an egg being released to sperm that are already in place from a previous sex act – as many as 5 or 6 days before. The chance of preventing the possibility of pregnancy is fairly high if the woman is preovulatory. The chance of the assault happening essentially simultaneously with ovulation (the situation in which a high dose of progestin could potentially be abortifacient) is fairly low.

      If an ovulation test indicates that ovulation has not yet occurred, there should be no moral qualm whatsoever to using emergency contraception after rape, since the obligation not to use contraception rests on an understanding of the ends of consensual sex – which were never present in rape. There is no ‘unitive’ meaning to be injured by being divided from the ‘procreative’. A woman is under no obligation to be receptive toward her rapist.

      • Thank you Kate. As long as an ovulation test is done and indicates that ovulation has not occurred then a contraceptive may be administered to the victim, even if there is a possibility that the contraceptive also has abortifacient effects. It is moral certitude that no abortion will occur that is necessary, not absolute certainty.

        As a doctor with a history of working with Catholic hospitals and a solid pro-life record, I presume that Ron Paul is endorsing precisely this kind of procedure as outlined by the USCCB when he talks about treating rape victims, unless stated otherwise. Ron Paul’s answer is disappointing to me in that it remains unclear but I’ve never heard Ron Paul say anything contrary to USCCB outlines for treating rape victims so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and withhold any judgement.

        Here is the directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on treatment of rape victims: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/sexuality-contraception/the-morning-after-pill-rape-victims-and-ethical-and-religious-directives-for-catholic-health-care-services/

        • Kate

          Thank you for the link – I was going from memory and am relieved to see I remembered correctly!

      • vickie

        Thank you for this clarification Kate.

    • Mark Windsor

      Ron Paul was a practicing OB/GYN. I think he might know something about this. And unless the other sources on the internet are similarly qualified, then the actual doctor should have the final say.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Thank you for your detailed explanation, Kate. Paul could not have been misquoted (it’s on the video) but based on what you say, I’m inclined to believe that he mispoke, saying estrogen when he meant progestin. Based on your analysis (unless someone comes up with a better one), I’d have to say that he is not advocating anything contrary to Catholic moral teaching. So I will go ahead and vote for him. I just knew that on this blog, someone would come up with some very good information. Thanks again.

  • dan daly

    The truly scandalous thing is that Rep. Paul’s position is also the position of at least many American Bishops, including one Archbishop William Lori who is now supposedly leading the fight against the HHS Mandate. For all the talk of shutting down hospitals in order to avoid violating Catholic teaching, people would do well to look into what happened in CT and MA when the state demanded Catholic hospitals provide abortifacients to alleged raped victims….the hospitals complied with the approval of their bishops. In the case of CT, then-Bishop Lori and his peers stated that an off the shelf pregnancy test was sufficient in order to determine if the abortifacient drugs might actually kill a baby. Of course at that short a period of time after intercourse, such a test is entirely useless.

    • Pathfinder

      I think part of the issue was that the new mandate would have required Catholic hospitals to go ahead and issue an abortifacient regardless of whether or not impregnation had occured. So it wouldn’t matter if any tests to determine that had been done, they were to go ahead and administer — hence the problem.
      I may be wrong on this, but that’s the opinion I got.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Why is it a scandal? Note the comments of Kate and Christian Ohnimus above. Have Bishop Lori and his brother bishops been overruled by the Pope as he would be the only one with the authority to overrule their interpretation of Catholic teaching.

  • Melanie

    Though I do disagree with Paul on this issue, at the very least I know where he stands as far as public policy and I can trust him. He has integrity. He is consistent. He does not pander. Give me someone like that any day over a professed Catholic who compromises when it’s politically advantageous.

    Paul is not perfect, but he’s refreshingly honest and a true statesman. It’s too bad we don’t value that anymore.

    • I’m sure folks do value that, they may have simply looked at non-Paul politicians and concluded they may also be honest and true, or have looked at some of Paul’s approaches, and found them at least par for the course.

      • Melanie

        Much of the criticism I hear of Paul is that he’s not slick enough of a politician to make any headway in DC. Some say he’s too honest. He’ll say what he believes even to boos and heckles – political suicide. We’ve been conditioned to think politicians SHOULD be panderers or else they have no chance, while at the same time complaining about how deceptive they all are.

  • Members of the National Catholic Bioethics Council came to much the same conclusion as what Paul appears to have meant to say:


  • vickie

    I will also say the for Ron Paul, a lot of time, if he thinks legislation is bad, he will vote against it even if it would help “his side”. He takes is oath to uphold the US Constitution seriously. So it pays to consider his reasoning before panning him on something.