Why Aren’t Libertarians Rejecting Rand Paul’s Fight Against Planned Parenthood?
The 300-odd young libertarians packed into Catholic University’s student center were the elect of the elect. They’d scored invites to the Young Americans for Liberty annual conference because — according to an email pitch to sponsors — they could be “the future congressmen, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and activists that will restore our republic.”
And they were not fans of Planned Parenthood. In a short evening of conversations, no young libertarian activist said he disagreed with Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) effort to bar any federal funds for the family planning group. At a bar near the conference, one table echoed with arguments about the ethics of abortion, and the politics of Paul’s move.
“Planned Parenthood should not be funded by taxpayer dollars,” said Hannah Malstrom, 26, a student at the University of Central Arkansas. “We were all once 20 weeks old. If I was ripped limb from limb, and my organs were sold on the black market, I would not be a happy camper. Another big stance in libertarianism is opposition to the death penalty. It’s not right to play God when someone has done something wrong — so why is it right to play God with someone who has done nothing wrong?”
Rand Paul’s politics are a constant source of debate on the libertarian right and left. Some think he’s lurched too far toward military interventionism. Some think he’s too close to the Republican establishment. but Paul’s abortion views are less nettlesome than liberal observers of libertarianism seem to think. In April, ThinkProgress’s Judd Legum wrote confidently that Paul was “not a libertarian”; his first evidence was that the senator “vehemently opposes abortion rights.” This week, Little Green Footballs’s Charles Johnson wrote that “Rand Paul likes to present himself as a civil libertarian, but his stance on reproductive rights is straight from the darkest, most regressive part of the Republican Party’s war on women.”
The evidence for Paul’s heresy is his sponsorship of legislation to define life as beginning at conception — something liberals see as antithetical to “choice.” Doctrinal libertarians don’t necessarily agree.
When former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ran for president, he talked relentlessly about his career as an obstetrician. He told a story about seeing a viable-seeming baby in the garbage outside of a clinic, and of the shudder he felt. He said all that and founded Young Americans for Liberty, part of a largely successful effort to turn out young voters. Young Republicans, according to most polling, are even more anti-abortion than their Generation X or baby boomer parents.
“If you believe in the Constitution, and the protection of life under our Constitution, it’s perfectly within the scope of libertarianism to protect life at all stages,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who endorsed both Pauls for president. “It’s perfectly reasonable to apply the equal protection clause to protect that. Not just reasonable — essential.”
And here is what Ayn Rand said: