Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is attempting to walk a delicate line between social conservatives and his more libertarian-minded supporters, has been sending mixed messages of late on the issues of abortion and contraception.
“I think, and I often say in my speeches, that I don’t think a civilization can long endure that doesn’t respect the rights of the unborn,” Paul said in a conversation with the American Liberty Association last month.
Paul's most recent comments stand in contrast to what he told David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, in an April interview.
“I think where the country is, is somewhere in the middle, and we are not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise,” Paul said at the time, explaining that though he believes life begins at conception, public opinion is too polarized for him to try to ban the procedure.
Paul's actions while in the Senate would seem to indicate where his heart lies on the matter. In March, he introduced the Life at Conception Act, a so-called "personhood" bill, which would grant legal rights to zygotes at fertilization.
Medical experts believe that personhood bills could also ban in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control, along with abortion.
And yet at an event in Iowa last week, Paul distanced himself from legislative efforts like the personhood measure.
“It’s been this narrative that’s come from the other side … somehow saying we’re some troglodytes who really are against birth control,” he said, according to CNN. “There may be various opinions in here, but there’s probably almost nobody who wants to ban birth control. I haven’t heard any Republican politician who does.”
Paul has been pondering how to make the Republican Party "a bigger tent" and so has been hedging his rhetoric on issues from civil rights to foreign aid, in preparation for a potential bid for president in 2016.