Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Monday that social issues like abortion were not the single greatest motivating factor that inspired him to run for political office.
At an event at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, Paul was asked whether he would make an effort to address abortion during his presidential campaign.
“You know," Paul replied, "I will answer the question as honestly as I can. I didn’t run for office because of this issue. It wasn’t what got me to leave my practice. And I ran for office mainly because I became concerned that we’re going to destroy the country with debt. That we would borrow so much money that we would just destroy the currency.”
The comment may raise eyebrows among social conservatives, who view the issue of abortion as somewhat of a litmus test for Republicans running for office. Yet Paul, a libertarian-leaning senator, has earned praise from anti-abortion activists in the past. Last month, he parried a question about whether he supports abortion in cases of rape or incest by telling reporters to focus on whether Democrats would be OK "with killing a seven-pound baby that is not born yet."
In Philadelphia, Paul also said he preferred that individual states handle the issue of abortion, rather than doing so via the federal government under the 14th Amendment.
“I think the question that still divides us, and it’s a difficult question, is when does life begin,” Paul said. “I think we go down all kinds of rabbit holes talking about other stuff, but I’m an ophthalmologist, and I see one, two-pound babies in the neonatal nursery. I look into their eyes to try to prevent a form of blindness that is now preventable.”
“And everybody agrees that that one-pound baby has rights,” he added. “If someone were to hurt that one-pound baby in the neonatal nursery, it’s a problem. That baby has rights. But we somewhat inconsistently say that seven-pound baby at birth or just before birth has no rights. And so I think these are questions we have to sort out. We just have to figure when we agree life begins.”