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Ron Paul's Pro-Life Credentials Questioned By Personhood USA

First Posted: 12/26/2011 8:04 pm Updated: 12/26/2011 8:08 pm

WASHINGTON -- The intensity of Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) pro-life beliefs was questioned by fellow conservatives Monday evening, when the group Personhood USA expressed concern that the GOP presidential candidate was not fully committed to their goal of granting fertilized embryos the same constitutional protections currently afforded to American citizens.

The move comes less than a week after the Texas congressman and career obstetrician became the fifth Republican presidential candidate to sign a petition written and organized by Personhood USA, pledging to “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.” A ballot initiative with a similar goal organized by Personhood USA failed to pass in Mississippi in November.

When the libertarian-leaning Paul signed the Personhood pledge, he included a clarifying statement, in which he appears to leave the door open for states to determine how to enforce a hypothetical Human Life Amendment, were it to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

"A Human Life Amendment should do two things," Paul writes in the statement. "First, it should define life as beginning at conception and give the unborn the same protection all other human life enjoys. Second, it must deal with the enforcement of the ruling much as any law against violence does -- through state laws."

(Read Paul's full clarification here.)

In an open letter to Paul, Personhood USA took issue with that line of reasoning, writing, "How exactly does Rep. Paul suggest we “protect rights at the federal level?" The group's point, put simply, is that federally protected rights should be enforced on a federal level. Leaving individual states to determine how to enforce federal laws allows states to apply different standards of enforcement, which in practice, if not in theory, appears to contradict the federal nature of the protection.

The letter comes less than 24 hours before the Presidential Pro-Life Forum, a tele-town hall and radio simulcast that will take place Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. and is being co-sponsored by Personhood USA and other pro-life groups.

A spokesman for Paul's campaign declined to respond to an inquiry from The Huffington Post Monday evening. Personhood USA's letter is reprinted below.

Personhood USA to Rep. Ron Paul Re: Pledge Submitted by Keith Ashley on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 22:30 Dear Dimitri and Rep. Ron Paul,

Upon closer review of Rep. Ron Paul’s statement accompanying the personhood pledge, we have serious concerns both about the internal inconsistencies within Rep. Paul’s statement, and the inconsistency between the clarifying statement and the language of Personhood USA’s pledge.

We do not wish to hurt Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign in any way, which is why we would like to give him the opportunity to explain and hopefully reconcile the inconsistencies. We recognize and respect that Rep. Ron Paul has been heroically consistent in his views on federalism. Also, nobody doubts that Rep. Ron Paul is personally pro-life, but he is running to be the head of state, not a private citizen. Therefore, his view of the role of the federal government and the protection of life – the only inalienable right greater even than liberty, is of paramount importance to us.

Thomas Jefferson who authored the Declaration of Independence (this nation’s foundation of liberty and self-government) and who was also one of the main supporters of the inclusion of a bill of rights to the U.S. Constitution wrote that “the chief purpose of government is to protect life. Abandon that and you have abandoned all.”

Rep. Ron Paul seems to agree with Jefferson within the text of his clarifying statement, when he writes:
“We should allow our republican system of government to function as our Founders designed it to: protect rights at the federal level, enforce laws against violence at the state level.”

However, Rep. Ron Paul also states that:
“The Fourteenth Amendment was never intended to cancel out the Tenth Amendment. This means that I can’t agree that the Fourteenth Amendment has a role to play here, or otherwise we would end up with a “Federal Department of Abortion.”

When this last statement is combined with his desire to see the jurisdiction of the courts removed for the purpose of dealing with abortion, one has to wonder: How exactly does Rep. Paul suggest we “protect rights at the federal level”? We agree with Rep. Ron Paul that the 10th amendment police powers are the proper vehicle for state criminalization of murder (born and unborn) but we strenuously disagree that the 10th amendment could possibly allow for the decriminalization of murder. If this were the case, it would truly seem that we would be throwing out the whole purpose of the constitution, which is to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” I am sure that this is not Rep. Ron Paul’s aim, so where does Rep. Ron Paul believe is that federal protection of the right to life?

How will the rights of unborn children (our posterity) be federally protected in NY or California, where a majority of the people are in favor of the legalized murder of unborn children?

We understand his position that self-government comes with certain responsibilities, and that liberty implies allowing people to make mistakes. But there is a critically important difference when we are speaking of abortion. With abortion the mistaken policy of the person with power is used to exterminate another, powerless, person: that is not the exercise of liberty but the most evil form of tyranny.

The 14th amendment states that:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

If Rep. Paul believes that “life begins at conception” and therefore agrees with the core reasoning of the Personhood movement that all human beings should be considered legal persons with rights, then why would the 14th amendment’s clear requirement that states grant equal protection to all persons not apply to making sure that state criminal codes protect the lives of born and unborn persons equally? Rep. Ron Paul would surely agree that if a state decided to decriminalize the killing of all human beings over 70, that state would be violating 14th amendment’s equal protection clause, would he not?

Lastly, and most importantly, how can Rep. Ron Paul reconcile his states rights permissive theory of abortion with the statement in our pledge that “every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and is endowed by our creator with the unalienable right to life.” If in fact our right to life comes from God, not government, and we acknowledge that “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men,” how can Rep. Ron Paul adhere simultaneously to the theory that entire states in this union may trespass with impunity upon these fundamental rights while maintaining that these rights are unalienable?

In conclusion, these are the inconsistencies we would like to see resolved:

1. Where within our republican system of government does Rep. Ron Paul find the federal protection of the right to life?
2. Does Rep. Ron Paul believe that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment does not extend to unborn persons?
3. If Rep. Ron Paul believes in the “unalienable right to life”, why does he believe the federal constitution, specifically the 10th amendment, requires that the states have the authority to sanction murder, if they so choose?

We honestly desire Rep. Ron Paul to be a champion for life with as much depth and consistency as he has shown for limited government, and we believe that it is possible for him to answer the above questions in a way that would satisfy both his principled view of limited government and his desire to protect all innocent human beings.

This is how we believe he could answer and maintain his consistency:
1. Where within our republican system of government does Rep. Ron Paul find the federal protection of the right to life?
The right to life is firmly enshrined in in the declaration of independence, the preamble to the constitution, and the 5th and 14th amendments.
2. Does Rep. Ron Paul believe that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment does not extend to unborn persons?
No, Rep. Ron Paul believes that as applied to abortion, the 14th amendment requires that state laws be applied equally to all persons. A scientific, legal, and morally consistent understanding of the definition of the word person requires that term include all human beings as persons at every stage of their development. Therefore the 14th amendment should apply to unborn persons.
3. If Rep. Ron Paul believes in the “unalienable right to life”, why does he believe the federal constitution, specifically the 10th amendment, requires that the states have the authority to sanction murder, if they so choose?
Rep. Ron Paul believes that the 10th amendment recognizes states’ police power, which includes the power to pass laws to regulate to protect the health, safety, and morals of the people. No state, and no government has the power to legalize murder, as that would be a violation of the unalienable right to life granted by God to those beings made in His image and likeness.

Please consider our questions carefully and respond to us by noon tomorrow. If you need more time to address these issues, please contact us via email requesting an extension of time and we will be happy to do so.

Personhood USA is a standard bearer, not a kingmaker. We do not seek to endorse or reject a candidate for office. We do however, require that those who sign the pledge adopt a consistent policy. For the reasons stated above, we do not believe that Rep. Ron Paul’s policies towards life meet the standard of the Personhood USA pledge.

We are hopeful that you will satisfactorily address the issues presented above. If not we will be put in the unfortunate position of having to reject your pledge publicly.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

God bless you,

Personhood USA

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