Recently, I noticed a troublesome consequence of the Ron Paul candidacy for president. An entire generation of men (and potentially women) who worship at the altar of Paul, and who consider themselves to be the highest arbiters of what constitutes freedom, may have been sucked into his backward views on a woman’s right to choose. They’ve demonstrated that while they claim they are the most independent-minded voters in the nation, they actually follow their unquestioned leader down every path he chooses. In other words, many of them have become completely comfortable with the idea that women do not have the same rights to liberty that men do. Given that his views on abortion, and even birth control, are some of the most regressive in this country, it is difficult to see how this damage can be undone.
I have the annoying misfortunate of being related to a Ron Paul sycophant. My Facebook newsfeed is often awash with Ron Paul propaganda even today, despite the dear leader's "suspension" of active campaigning. His self-proclaimed "army" of followers is highly invested in the so-called delegate strategy, and despite the odds, simply not willing to let go. So, recently, a new type of post began to show up in my Facebook feed: anti-choice propaganda. One post involved an artist’s rendering of an alleged 12-week old fetus, looking for all the world like a day-old baby, cupped in a hand with the caption, “Does this look like a bunch of cells to you?” This post was coming from a young man who had traditionally supported women’s reproductive rights, that is, until Ron Paul started preaching.
I seriously doubt this is the only individual to morph his views to match his infallible idol. When I searched the Internet for similar anti-women’s rights Paulites, they were easy to find in comments sections across many different sites. For example, one comment read, “I think he is fighting for the individual rights of the baby, not the woman.” Another read, “If, as you crazily claim, that Ron Paul thinks that women aren't people, then why doesn't he qualify his anti-abortion position to exclude females in the womb?” Or there was, “Dr. Paul has enlightened me that abortion is wrong because it is taking a life.” They went on and on like this.
Just how repressive is Ron Paul when it comes to women’s right to choose? He has repeatedly forwarded proposals such as the “Sanctity of Life Act” which states that life begins at conception. People who want to give personhood rights to zygotes from the moment egg meets sperm typically want to outlaw most forms of birth control, because they do not just prevent the joining of egg and sperm, but rather prevent implantation of a zygote in the uterus. Not surprisingly, this was Ron Paul’s reaction to Obama’s extension of birth control access to women:
“Not all Americans are comfortable with the Obama administration’s decision to mandate coverage of birth control and morning-after pills, and the considerations of these people, many of them Christian conservatives, are worthy of careful consideration — not mockery.”
So, the views of Christian conservatives are worthy of careful consideration, but their actual behavior using birth control is irrelevant? This, despite the fact that the majority of said conservative evangelicals have premarital sex. In reality, over 99% of women between the ages of 15-44 who have had sexual intercourse have used birth control, and at any given time, 62% of this age group is currently using birth control. The reason that number isn’t higher is because another 31% of women in this age group are infertile, pregnant, trying to get pregnant, have never had intercourse, or simply is not sexually active (Guttmacher Institute).
Personhood advocates also reject the need for abortion even under the most egregious forms of unwanted pregnancy: rape and incest. Ron Paul claims he believes in exceptions for these cases of “honest rape,” but the supporters of personhood initiatives he champions do not ordinarily recognize his allegedly nuanced position. Furthermore, careful scrutiny of his position reveals that a woman has to react immediately to the rape or incest with a trip to the emergency room (which is actually a highly uncommon response to these violations) or else be stuck with the consequences.
Matt Yglesias at Think Progress provided a very telling Ron Paul quote on abortion that demonstrates his radically anti-choice stance:
“Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the “right” of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the “property rights” of slave masters in their slaves. Moreover, by this method the State achieves a goal common to all totalitarian regimes: it sets us against each other, so that our energies are spent in the struggle between State-created classes, rather than in freeing all individuals from the State. Unlike Nazi Germany, which forcibly sent millions to the gas chambers (as well as forcing abortion and sterilization upon many more), the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.”
Yes, Ron Paul likens women’s right to choose to slavery and Nazi genocide. Ron Paul asserts that abortion is the “ultimate State tyranny” without seeing how the government forcing itself into a woman’s private life decisions is tyrannical. This is especially pathetic given that his brand of libertarianism would have elevated property rights for owning slaves far above the right to freedom for those slaves as demonstrated by his ardent support of property rights over civil rights in the discourse over the Civil Rights Act, because it “violated the right to privacy.”
Ron Paul doesn’t even believe people should be required to use taxes to help the poor, content to let them die earlier than they otherwise would if they had assistance. Yet, he quite comfortable requiring women to give up their freedom to control their bodies and using the government to force her to carry a pregnancy against her will. Clearly, he doesn’t think much of women’s freedom while he exults freedom as the ultimate American value. Unfortunately, he now has minions, who have shown little capacity to think for themselves beyond what their leader tells them to think, and we have otherwise socially liberal causalities who may well have been easily swayed to abandon women’s reproductive rights.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.