Ron Paul: No Constitutional Protection for the Unborn

From time to time, people will ask me what I think about the presidential candidate Ron Paul. There is much that can be said here, but let me focus in on the issue that I believe is the most important—abortion.

Paul is a libertarian, but he has a highly rated pro-life voting record in the United States Congress. Nevertheless, Ron Paul does not believe that the 14th amendment protects the life of the unborn. Here’s the language from this portion of the U.S. Constitution:

“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Article 1 of the 14th Amendment).

In my view, abortion-on-demand “deprives” innocent “persons” of their “life” without “due process of law” and therefore is a violation of the 14th amendment. This has become a mainstream constitutional opinion among pro-life advocates, but it is not Ron Paul’s view. Paul’s view on this issue is a deal-breaker for me.

The GOP would have to revise its longstanding platform if Paul were to be the nominee. Here’s the wording from the GOP platform:

We assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

So Paul was out of step with his own party when he ran in 2008, and I think he is out of step now.

Earlier in the campaign when Rick Perry suggested that abortion was a states rights issue, the Susan B. Anthony List released a statement from Robbie George arguing to the contrary. It was a gentle correction of Perry’s misstep off of the pro-life reservation, and I thought it was warranted. George explains how sections 1 and 5 of the fourteenth amendment allow the federal government to enforce protection of human life if the states fail to do so. George has some more extensive reflections here, and I think it would be worth your time to read them.

Let me be clear. Paul stands with pro-lifers regarding the ethics of abortion. He is outside of the mainstream, however, in the way that he approaches it as a legal matter. And the difference between his view and the pro-life mainstream is all the difference in the world. He does not support a right to life amendment to the Constitution. He also believes that the Constitution gives States the right to allow the unborn to be killed. Some states might allow it, and others might not. As a legal question, Paul thinks the Constitution has no role in guaranteeing a right to life for the unborn. I could not disagree with him more on this point.

In the video below, Robbie George presses Ron Paul on his view of the 14th amendment, so you can hear Paul make his case in his own words. The exchange begins at about 16:44.


  • ivykid

    This is a problem of jurisdiction and enforcement. Some states could allow abortion in the case of saving the life of the mother. Others may have a harder stance on it. It would also be far cheaper for the states to enforce this law then at a federal level.

      • Dominic

        This comment is interesting. “Nothing on his platform.” Very interesting since it has been Ron Paul alone to introduce and re-introduce this bill (HR 2597) over and over.

  • John Caneday

    Sure, you can use the 14th Amendment against abortion, but once you do so, you’ve added an interpretation to the Amendment that was in no way intended by the government or the states intended. The 14th Amendment was a specific response to slavery and its inherent racism. As soon as you add abortion to the jurisdiction of the 14th Amendment, you open it up to all sorts of other interpretations and additional jurisdiction to the federal government. This is Paul’s point.

    If you want to abuse the power of the law in your favor, you’ve got to be ready for your political opponents to do the same when they’re in power. Maybe instead, we should stick to following the law as it was intended and not use Machiavellian tricks to bend the law in our favor.

    This isn’t a “libertarian” issue. This is a Constitutional issue. You can’t make the Constitution say what you want it to say without committing injustice–even if it is in the name of justice.

    • Denny Burk

      This is my point. I do think the framers of the 14th amendment intended its protection to be applied to “persons.” You are arguing that unborn persons should be excluded from the protections of the 14th amendment. Are there any other persons that you think are excluded from the protection of the 14th amendment?

      The framers of the amendment didn’t exclude any class of persons from these protections. They just use the word “person” (which by the way is broader than the “citizen” language in the first part of the amendment). The burden of proof is on you to show what persons should be excluded from the 14th amendment’s protection of life.

      I believe that if you try to exclude any class of persons, the framers of the 14th amendment would disagree with you. I’m arguing on the basis of original intent.

      • John Caneday

        I’ve watched the video again and George makes a good case for the use of the 14th Amendment in protecting the unborn by demanding states apply murder laws equally to the unborn. Though the intent was not there to protect the unborn, the clarity of the statement is such that you cannot deny the unborn, assuming they are “persons” should be protected from murder.

        Of course getting abortionists and pro-abortion allies to agree to the personhood of unborn children is another matter.

        But this issue aside, George’s idea is essentially the “nuclear option” in outlawing abortion. Were any president to begin to interpret the 14th Amendment in this way, and it would be a NEW interpretation, imagine the outcry that would follow! Rush Limbaugh has often said that the abortion issue could be the cause of a new American Civil War, and a president pursuing this option would escalate the abortion issue to new levels of violence.

        I don’t see how this could possibly help the cause. Ron Paul was right in last night’s debate when he said that the morality of the people must change–outlawing abortion will not change the hearts of the people. Such a tactic as George seems to advocate would be very dangerous indeed. Paul’s approach to let states decide would allow certain states to immediately outlaw abortion and decentralize the issue and let smaller communities decide to outlaw abortion and may actually lessen the number of abortions performed in the U.S.

    • Andrew


      This is actually tied very closely to the original intent. Planned Parenthood was founded by profound racists and abortion facilities were intentionally placed in ethnic neighborhoods. The number of minorities killed by abortions far outpaces the number of whites.

  • Marty Duren

    It is interesting that you are pro-life but are more than willing for the killing to continue until the unlikely event that Roe be overturned or the even less likely event of a Life Amendment to the constitution. Under Paul’s plan some states would outlaw or reduce abortion immediately. The practical effect is lives saved.

    How can anyone claim to support the unborn when arguing to allow their slaughter to continue (the practical effect) based on a legal argument? The position you argue places a philosophy of life over life itself. This makes absolutely no sense.

    • Matt Svoboda

      Thank you Marty. I can’t comprehend how more people do not see this. Paul’s plan would in fact save more lives more quickly than any other plan.

      No one running is more pro-life than Ron Paul.

    • Chris Garner

      There is no objective evidence that supports that just because one state outlaws abortion that abortion would dramatically decrease. Simply asked, what would keep a woman from leaving a state in which it is outlawed to a state where it is legal? If a woman is desperate enough to get an abortion she is more than likely willing to go desperate measures to obtain one. This is precisely why we DO need a constitutional law and someone who DOES believe that the 14th amendment applies to the unborn.

      • Vince

        It is a guarantee that outlawing abortion in states would lower the number of abortions on the whole. It could still be debated by how much, but the idea that this would be no deterrence for anyone seems a little exaggeratedly cynical. Plus, this plants the seeds of the culture of life by actually having places where abortion is illegal in most or all cases. I think this may be a more useful first step for the pro-life cause than the all or nothing mentality, which as has already been stated, is costing more lives in the short term, as well as potentially in the long term too.

  • Kamilla


    If you’re going to take that reading of the 14th Am then you will have to afford full constitutional/due process rights to terrorists as well. That may be your position, I don’t know.

    But I suspect Ron Paul’s full answer on that would make reference to the full first article of the amendment with specific language designating persons born or naturalized.

    I hardly think they had abortion in view when writing it. To read that sort of right to life into the 14th amendment you have to stray into the territory of Griswold v Connecticut and Eisendtadt v Baird.

      • Kamilla

        Uhm, no. Section 2 makes it perfectly clear that antenatal human beings are not considered persons. They are not enumerated for purposes of representation.

        I wish your reading was the correct one, then in one fell swoop we could not only get rid of surgical abortions we could get rid of medical abortions, “emergency contraception” and in fact all forms of birth control which aren’t strictly and solely contraceptive in nature.

        What a sight that would be – huge numbers of Evangelical women being jailed for violating the 14th Amendment! Whooey!

        But, in fact, that is not the original intent of the 14th Amendment. In fact, the due process clause may make it worse – if some clever lawyer makes the right sort of reference to stare decisis then abortion will be enshrined in law until we get a pro-life constitutional amendment. And once men and women realize the implications of a constitutional amendment for their birth control and life style choices, don’t bet on that ever happening.


  • Nick Kennicott

    “He is outside of the mainstream, however, in the way that he approaches it as a legal matter. And the difference between his view and the pro-life mainstream is all the difference in the world.”

    The fact that he’s “outside the mainstream” and has been so consistently pro-life for 30 years is what makes him so appealing. As he said himself, if given to the states, the opportunity to eliminate millions of abortions over the last 10 years would have been dramatically increased. Instead, so-called pro-life politicians have sat on their hands since 1973 waiting for federal abortion laws to change.

    Dr. Paul is an OBGYN and vehemently opposes abortion. The difference between him and most of the politicians in Washington is that he actually wants to do something that would bring an END to abortions, not simply sit around and see the nearly impossible legislation of a changed constitution go through a divided congress. Empowering states to end abortion will save lives and bring an end to the barbaric murder of unborn children. What you’re proposing is that we sit and wait for someone to push to end abortion at the Federal Level. George Bush was the president for 8 years with a republican congress – what did they do for the rights of the unborn? Nothing. What would the other candidates do to end abortion? Nothing. In fact, Mitt has been pro-choice, and Santorum has voted to give millions to planned-parenthood!

    • Denny Burk


      President Bush signed into law the partial birth abortion ban. He also appointed two originalist justices to the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito). Are you really going to say that the Republicans and Bush did nothing? I don’t know anybody who would say that they did nothing.

      Paul wants to remove jurisdiction from the federal courts to decide abortion law. He proposes to do that through Congressional action. But that is just as unlikely to happen soon as the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Ron Paul does not have any quick fixes here.


  • donsands

    “..we should stick to following the law as it was intended and not use Machiavellian tricks to bend the law in our favor.”


    I heard Ron Paul say that while he was working in the hospital, he would see in one room a baby being brought forth and delivered in new life, and in another room he would see a baby in the trashcan. Paul is staunchly pro-life.

    I see the Constitution as our best foundation as Paul does. Of course the Scriptures are our life and truth, but in this world we do need law. Or there will be dictorial rule and no liberty, which is exactly what is happening, and even the conservative leaders are acting like they are our paremts and know best, and we are children and need our daddy-government.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    I’ll have to agree that I don’t think the founders did have abortion in mind when writing the Amendment. It simply wasn’t an “issue” then in the same way that it is now. Now that’s not to say I would belittle anyone for taking it that way, and it’s understandable when the liberals have mangled the constitution in so many ways for us to say “Well darnit, why can’t we do a little of our creative interpretation?” But even though this is comparatively mild compared to far worse stretches on the part of the left, I still feel uneasy about playing that game.

    And, as I’ve tried to say again and again, name the most heinous crime you can think of. It’s not illegal at the federal level. It’s not about “importance.” “If it’s really important it must be a federal crime.” Not how our country’s set up.

  • Richard Hutto


    I respect you a great deal and learn from your blog on a regular basis. However, I truly believe you are missing the mark here. First, Paul’s plan would eliminate abortions immediatly in the overturning of Roe V. Wade and then the many states that would outlaw it as well. The 14th ammendment does not mean what you say it means. What we need is not to misrepresent what the 14th ammendment says but suggest and vote on a new ammendment defining a life (something we the people are capable of doing).

    I truly believe more babies will be saved under a Ron Paul presidency than any other (except Santorum but he shouldn’t president for a whole host of other big government and dangerous reasons)

    Thanks for the thoughful discussion

  • JStanton

    I’ve always thought that most Christian conservatives have a one-track mind when it comes to abortion. Which is to say most pro-life Christians have sought to ban abortion entirely over the last 4 decades rather than working to reduce abortions through programs.

    I am sympathetic to Ron Paul’s view of abortion rights in the context of state’s rights. He is, at least, consistent.

    I think it’s ‘stretching it’ to say that abortion is unconstitutional. It was made constitutional federally through dubious legal reasoning and any overturning of Roe v. Wade will return abortion to the domain of the states. A federal law banning abortion entirely would require a moral undertaking by the people. I think moral people create moral laws and so I’m not optimistic about that.

  • Kamilla


    Interesting that reporting from the pro-life forum tonight has Ron Paul countering the ACOG’s re-definition of pregnancy as starting as implantation rather than conception but then says he want’s to protect the right of states to make definitons on when life begins.

    I honestly think Dr. Paul is genuinely confused and that’s why I can’t trust him.

  • Chad

    Doesn’t anyone remember Ron Paul cosponsoring the “Life at Conception” Act? How much more pro-life does he need to be? Maybe today isn’t the best day to link to Wikipedia, but in 2005 Paul reintroduced the “Sanctity of Life Amendment” to Congress. You are smart man, but I’m starting to think you don’t see his pro-life stance because you don’t want to see it.

    • Matt Svoboda

      Agreed. I am a fan of Denny and of Ron Paul and it appears to me that because Denny doesnt like Paul he sees everything about Paul in as negative light as he can.

    • Denny Burk

      Ron Paul is correct on the ethics of abortion. He believes that life begins at conception as all other pro-lifers do. The difference is his view of the constitution. I think his states rights view unnecessarily distorts his understanding of 14th amendment protections.

    • Denny Burk

      I have tried to steer clear of endorsing candidates on this site. I have, however, weighed-in frequently about who I see to be the strong vs. weak pro-life candidates. I have also weighed-in against those who are pro-choice. In a primary election, that often leaves a number of candidates who are viable pro-life alternatives. In a general election, that usually leaves one. For instance, I never endorsed John McCain in the 2008 general election, but I wrote extensively about Candidate Obama’s pro-choice record.

      I’m mainly interested in the pro-life cause, not in endorsing candidates.

  • Elliot

    Denny, first of all, I have been following your blog for sometime, and I very much appreciate it. Second, I am impressed that you have been taking the time to respond to all of these comments. Third, by way of introduction, I do not consider myself a die-hard Ron Paul supporter. (I supported Mike Huckabee in 2008.) Fourth, I have studied Constitutional Law from what is probably the most conservative Christian law school in the country (my professor for Constitutional Law served as senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund), and I consider myself to be extremely conservative. (I oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and I wholeheartedly believe in sola Scriptura.) Because I think abortion is such an important issue, I do believe Ron Paul is wrong not to support a federal amendment to protect the unborn.

    That being said, I think the Constitution, as it currently stands, does not authorize the federal government to enact a blanket prohibition on abortion. This is not because of any alleged “right of privacy” in the Constitution, as the liberals would assert, but simply because our system of federalism does not authorize the federal government to act outside the scope of its enumerated powers.

    Let’s assume for now that the adopters of the Fourteenth Amendment intended the word “person” in the Due Process Clause to include the unborn. This would mean that the state could not deprive any unborn child of their right to life without due process of law.

    Traditionally, however, both liberals and conservatives have agreed that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause is (unlike the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition of slavery) only a limitation on the government’s power to act. It does not give the federal government plenary power to prohibit private individuals from depriving another person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. (Any such power must arise from some other portion of the Constitution, such as Art. I, Sec. 8.)

    The same “state action” prerequisite to the application of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no state shall deprive any person of the equal protection of the laws.

    Thus, when Congress tried to ban private racial discrimination in the 60s, they had to justify their efforts via the Commerce Clause (which I think is baloney, but that’s another discussion for another time) rather than the Equal Protection Clause.

    To sum up, abortion is, of course, nothing less than murder. Matters of criminal law, however, have traditionally been held to be matters which can only be regulated by the state (with certain exceptions, such as when a crime involves interstate commerce, such as securities fraud or transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution). Thus, again, I believe Rep. Paul is wrong not to support a federal amendment to protect the unborn. Under our Constitution as it stands, however, I think Rep. Paul is right that this criminal matters must be dealt with at the state level.

    • Denny Burk

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Elliott. Scalia and Thomas agree with you. Both of them are on the record against using the 14th amendment in the way that I have recommended here. So I understand that even some conservative jurisprudence up to this point disagrees with me.

      That being said, I disagree with Scalia and Thomas. I think the protection of unborn human life is a legitimate implication of the 14th amendment. I think Robbie George’s argument is the correct one, and I hope that Roberts will eventually show his agreement with George as well.

      • Elliot

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Denny.

        1. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/10/4055 addresses the issue of judicial supremacy (v. the alternative views of “departmentalism” or nullification). However, even if Congress has the power to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, Congress would still have to make an independently determine whether it has the constitutional authority to ban abortion at the federal level under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

        2. Turning then to Section 5, we find that it authorizes Congress to pass “appropriate legislation” to “enforce” “the provisions of this article.” Thus, if a state was about to violate the Fourteenth Amendment, it certainly would be reasonable to argue that Congress could then pass legislation under Section 5 to prohibit the states from violating the Fourteenth Amendment. If, however, private action does not violate the Due Process Clause in the first place, then I don’t see how Congress can argue that banning private action is “appropriate” to “enforce” the Due Process Clause.

        Prof. George, in the aforementioned article, states that the “Constitution, in its 14th Amendment, plainly does delegate to Congress power to enforce its guarantees of due process and equal protection.” He’s right. But he does not explain in that article why he thinks that private action violates either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause when the plain language of those clauses reads: “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.”

        3. Switching gears, do you think we could use the Equal Protection Clause to justify a federal ban on abortion? If a state prohibits murder but doesn’t prohibit abortion, do you think we could argue that that violates the prohibition against any state depriving any person of the equal protection of the laws? I’m not sure if that argument is constitutionally sound, but I find it intriguing, so if you see any problems with that argument, please poke as many holes in it as you can. =) I would be much obliged. =)

        4. I said in my last comment that I thought “Rep. Paul is wrong not to support a federal amendment to protect the unborn.” Just for the sake of accuracy, I’m not so sure about that anymore after doing some further research. That’s another subject for another time, however.

        With that, I really should be studying for the Bar right now, and since (a) 1 Peter 5:5a instructs me to give due respect to my elders, and (b) I have said pretty much all I have to say on this matter at this point, I will now shut my mouth and defer to your greater experience and better judgment to come to a satisfactory conclusion on this matter. =)

        Thanks again for sharing your thoughts (this has been instructive for my own learning), and God bless you, brother.

  • Dominic

    As a family friend of Ron Paul’s, I would appreciate to see you change the title of your blog. To associate him with this travesty is unfair and quite honestly, appalling. Our current federal government does not offer protection for the unborn because The Supreme Court made it legal to have abortions. The federal government has centralized the decision making power on this issue and has declared itself the sole authority. You do see that, correct? It is the federal government that is not protecting the unborn. They have made it illegal for states to ban abortions. We need to remove the decision making power of the federal government SO THAT states can then make it illegal to have an abortion.

    Also, it is a fact that Ron Paul has stood alone, for the most part, in his support of HR 1096, 2597 (110th). As a matter of fact, he did not even have a co-sponsor for the bill. So, yes, you are correct, he is outside of the mainstream; he stands alone!

  • Christiane

    Mississippi is probably our ‘reddest’ state. But the Personhood Ammendment failed by a sixteen percent margin. The people could not fathom banishing ‘the pill’. They didn’t connect birth control with aborting life using the pill.

    What is the percentage of evangelical people in this country who believe that taking the pill is tantamount to abortion? Mississippi leads me to think that it is likely not a larger percent that feel that way.

  • Weston Balch

    The simple, inescapable fact is that at this very moment there ALREADY is no federal protection for the unborn. How did America get legalized abortion on demand? The Supreme Court took away the protection of the unborn that was ALREADY there. It was the Court that over-ruled the state’s protection of the unborn — (in fact, the case only made it to the Supreme Court because the state of Texas refused to allow Jane Roe access to an abortion).

    There was no constitutional amendment to protect the unborn prior to 1973, and yet abortion was a mere fraction of what it is today — and outlawed in a great many states. So let’s be honest and restate your thesis as: The Only Real Laws Are Federal Ones, because that’s what you are forcing here.

    The most disheartening of this entire subject/post is that we’re now reaping what has been sown in this “all or nothing–Supreme Court worship” of the previous generations of evangelical pro-life engagement. How much longer would you have my unborn brothers and sisters in Texas wait until their own state government can stand up and protect their lives? How many more “lesser of two evil” presidents must be elected so their supreme court justices can be driven and tossed by political winds until we wake up and get back to a biblically just reality, that can not merely wait 4 years and 6 million deaths until we vote again?

    • Denny Burk


      You and many others act as if Ron Paul would unilaterally overturn Roe v. Wade and return the matter to the states. He cannot do that. The only way to remove the jurisdiction of the federal courts is to get Congress to approve such a move. There is about as much chance of that happening as there is of amending the Constitution. Ron Paul’s solution is not quick fix.


  • Denny Burk

    Dear All,

    I added some material to the post about Rick Perry’s gaffe earlier in the campaign and Robbie George’s response to it for the Susan B. Anthony List. I’ve also changed some wording to specify that Paul opposes “constitutional” protection of the unborn (replacing generic “federal” language that I had in there originally). FYI.


  • Josh Ratliff

    First I want to thank you for this thought-provoking post. You certainly set my wheels to turning and forced me to do some in-depth research. Here is what I found out:

    Ron Paul’s interaction with the moderator in the video actually involves Paul’s being uncomfortable with how some are seeking to apply the enforcement clause of the 14th Amendment. Paul has long been an opponent of the idea of a federal police force–something he finds to be unconstitutional. In essence, he has technical problems with using the Fourteenth Amendment to impose force on the states. But what I thankfully found out is that he is NOT against the protection of the unborn at the Federal level. He actually supports it (this will be demonstrated below). His main point in the interaction with the moderator was that if a bill like his “We the People Act” were passed, they could have ended a great number of the abortions that took place within the last ten years by empowering the states to be free to pass a law that modifies a Supreme Court decision (like Roe v. Wade) without having to take it all the way to the federal court in order to do so. His main point is that this is a quicker route to ending abortions state by state. But, please see the video below starting at the 7:00 mark where Paul states explicitly that he would also support efforts to change the Constitution and reverse the Supreme Court decision at the Federal level.

    So to recap: Paul is not against federal protection of the unborn. He just doesn’t like the way people are trying to interpret the enforcement clase of the Fourteenth Amendment. He actually states explicitly that he would support a Consitutional Amendment as well as the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but an act like the “We the People Bill” could end many abortions in the mean time. Here’s the video:

    • Denny Burk

      If he is now supporting the right to life amendment, then this is news. I think this would be the first time he’s ever done that. He has always argued that it should be left to the states.

      • Josh Ratliff

        That wouldn’t quite be news. It may be news in the last few election cycles because Paul’s main thrust has been the idea behind the “We the People Act.” But Paul has been vocal about his support for the human life amendment as it was drafted by Jesse Helms in 1975. Further, he explcitly states in the video interview that the fight for an amendment is a good thing. He just thinks they also need to join with him in his fight to ensure the state’s rights to modify the supreme court rulings.

        In light of the above facts, and also in light of the fact that it is Paul’s stated goal to pass a “Sanctity of Human Life Act” (see his website under issues: abortion), it is fairly clear that Paul supports federal protection of the unborn. He simply disagrees with how some pro-lifers are seeking to apply and enforce the 14th Amendment. That being the case, I appreciate the fact that you changed the title of your post to “No Constitutional Protection…” rather than “No Federal Protection…” But even still, since he has been vocal about his support for a Constitutional Amendment, particularly one drafted in the style of Jesse Helms’ proposal, don’t you find that to be a bit misleading? Perhaps, you might consider writing up a follow-up post. In it, you could outline some of the above facts on Paul’s support of a Constitutional Amendment (which you will find in the video at 15:00), yet at the same time emphasize again your disagreement with Paul on the 14th Amendment. I feel that would be the course of action that would honor the truth most. Blessings, brother!

        • Denny Burk


          I don’t think that you have Paul’s position quite right. It is incorrect to say that Paul “supports federal protection of the unborn.” He supports legislation that would turn the issue back to the states. If any or all states decide to legalize abortion, there would be no federal protection of the unborn. The legislation that Paul supports only allows states to outlaw abortion; it does not require them to do so. Paul has said repeatedly that it is not the federal government’s role to regulate abortion.


          • Josh Ratliff

            There is no doubt that Paul has made some conflicting statements in the past and done a poor job of communicating on the life issue. I have big problems with his Lew Rockwell article from 2006 (http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul301.html). There, he makes some of the statements you’re, no doubt, referring to. However, in the video (15:00 onward) he does state that he would support a human life amendment which would not permit a state to allow the taking of the unborn’s life. Conflicting with his former statements on states’ rights? Perhaps, but why not publically give him credit for his correct stance that he’s expressed most recently?

            • Denny Burk

              Dear Josh,

              I had not seen that statement from Lew Rockwell. Ron Paul has spoken more recently on this topic, and you will note that he supports a certain kind of Human Life Amendment–one that would send the matter back to the states. In his letter dated December 19, 2011, Paul gave a litany of “qualifiers” that caused pro-life groups to reject Paul’s pro-life pledge: http://www.personhoodusa.com/files/Keith%20Ashley/Ron%20Paul%20Personhood%20Statement_0.pdf.

              According to the letter, Paul supports a Human Life Amendment that would “deal with the enforcement of the ruling much as any law against violence does – through state laws.” He doesn’t want the federal government to enforce the right to life. If the states don’t enforce it, there is no remedy.


          • Josh Ratliff

            Again, I have to thank you for be willing to discuss and work through this issue with me. I actually had not read the letter from Paul that you posted, but, knowing somewhat of Paul’s positions on the role of the federal government, this letter actually makes me more confident than before in his pro-life stance as one that would protect life at the federal level. I’ll explain:

            Paul’s statement, “I believe federal law should declare that life begins at conception. And I believe states should regulate the enforcement of this law, as they do other laws against violence,” doesn’t seem to square with your statement, “He doesn’t want the federal government to enforce the right to life. If the states don’t enforce it, there is no remedy.” I don’t find that in Paul’s words at all. And collating this letter with what he said in the original video you posted, I get a different picture entirely. When we speak of enforcement, he isn’t saying that the states have a right to ignore that portion of the Constitution which seems to be what you’re suggesting. He’s simply saying that the states would regulate how the unborn are protected. For instance, states have no right to allow people to be murdered, but they still have the right to decide how murders are arrested and prosecuted. So, again, it seems that Paul is concerned about the creation of a Federal Abortion Task Force. That, I agree, would be a mistake. He would advocate dealing with states the same way they are dealt with now if they violate the Constitution, but it would be a violation and would have to be dealt with.

  • Paul

    This is curious from this standpoint: Denny hates the idea of the constitution being a “living document.” However, that’s exactly what he’s asking for here.

    Short of a constitutional ban (which will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER happen), abortion will never be illegal in all 50 states. Even an overturn of Roe v. Wade (and along with it, Casey v. Planned Parenthood) will only return that power to the states, and given what happened in Mississippi last November, you can be pretty sure that Nebraska and South Dakota might likely be the only two states with a complete ban on abortion. It’s one thing to be pro-life. It’s another thing for a parent to have to think that THEIR daughter might not be able to get an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or unprotected sex with the Mexican kid down the block.

    This is why the constant harping on the subject is just completely crass and I think it devalues the political conversations that should be taking place. How do we limit the number of abortions that happen every year? How can we make our laws look more like those in France and Sweden where they’re practically impossible after the first trimester?

    • Chris W

      I think the outcome of the vote in Mississippi is misunderstood. I don’t think people were voting to protect abortion. I think there is a huge mistrust of government. There were conflicting statements from trusted sources about what this amendment would or would not do. The people see how often laws are twisted and applied beyond what most people would have anticipated.

      If this had truly been a vote to ban abortion, it would have passed. Overwhelmingly, so. I think it is a stretch to expect people to trust the government (legislative, judicial and executive branches) to maintain a multi-step process without error. If this amendment would not have ended abortion immediately (and it would not have), it is difficult to get the electorate to vote with the risks of error being unknown.

  • Rick Hogaboam

    I appreciate your concern for the cause of life and being brave enough to point out what you think is a flawed understanding of the 14th amendment according to Dr. Ron Paul. That being said, I think that even your revised title of “No Constitutional Protection for the Unborn” does not do justice to Dr. Paul’s overarching position on the issue.

    He believes that the Supreme Court should never have taken Roe V. Wade and that it is a travesty. He thinks it laughable that the privacy clause was used to justify the practice. As a side note, Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) has endorsed and supported Paul’s quest for the presidency, believing that he could rally a Republican house to get the Sanctity of Life Act passed, which would circumvent Roe V. Wade, and return to states the authority to protect human life as they define it. And, yes, there is a better chance of this taking place than Roe v Wade being overturned at the Federal Level.

    You also fail to recognize that this is the first step to undoing Roe v Wade, and not the last step. You might disagree with his reading on the 14th amendment, but this is the reason why he does support a constitutional amendment. You might think that the 14th should do it, and it would be great if the Supreme Court agreed, but Paul thinks it necessary to make it explicit through an amendment. The amendment would be difficult, requiring 75% of the states, but the ball would be rolling if the Sanctity of Life act was signed.

    I, too, stand for life, which is why I can’t support Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich. They have all supported bills that funded abortion, whereas Dr. Paul has never voted for a bill that subsidized abortions. Gingrich supported the broadening of the restriction on the Hyde amendment (which forbade funding of abortion) to include rape and incest as medically necessary, while at the same time allowing states to choose whether they wanted such funding or not, while he personally supported the funding of abortions in the case of rape and incest. Santorum did vote for appropriation bills that included funding for abortion and justified it because it was a small piece of a larger bill and mocked Paul as being sanctimonious about it, saying “he doesn’t vote for any spending” (as if that was a bad thing). I don’t need to go into Romney. Perry also has an evolving position.

    Abortion discussion aside, Paul is the only one who advocates a just war policy. I’m not a theonomist, or else I would advocate no standing army and no entanglement in the affairs of other countries, other than being a light for the nations, but I do think just war policy best honors God. God takes into account how nations treat one another, not just foreign nations treatment of OT Israel. Amos shows us that God was even angry with how pagan nations treated each other. I find the “Christian” booing of Paul borderline despicable when he is simply expressing caution in how we go to war – making sure that our intelligence is sound, that our security interests are legitimately threatened, and receiving from congress the constitutionally required marque and reprisal (declaration of war). Every war post WWII has not been declared. This is madness. We haven’t declared them because we know full well that they wouldn’t qualify under just war standards. Instead we fight battles for our “international interests”.

    Ron Paul is the only candidate, besides Santorum (and his somewhat surprising admission on Monday night that he doesn’t believe in the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without habeas corpus), who is vigorously apposed to the NDAA. I believe that habeas corpus is a humanizing provision that is undoubtedly afforded U.S. citizens in the constitution. Paul seems to be the only one concerned about the dehumanizing politics of fear (in the name of security) that imposes tyranny upon the whole.

    Dr. Paul is also opposed to torture, while the other candidates seem to enjoy the applause when declaring how tough they are on interrogations, almost seeking to out-macho one another. This red meat causes “Christians” to stand to their feet and hoot and holler. Sad indeed.

    Lastly, Paul has been a benevolent man throughout his life, often caring for patients out of his own pocket. He wasn’t being charitable to bring down his taxable income, that’s for sure.

    Big picture: Ron Paul is more pro-life than the others, and he is the only conservative Evangelical in the race. Well, Perry can be thrown in there, even though he hardly supported his church financially. Paul has two brothers in the ministry, one Lutheran and one Presbyterian, and has raised his children in the Christian faith. He attends a conservative Southern Baptist church and takes his faith seriously, but is refreshingly not using it to pander.

    He has his flaws, but he stands alone in the bunch as the most principled, consistent, and holistic pro-life candidate.



    • Denny Burk

      Thanks for the comment, Rick. I appreciate your taking time to weigh-in. At the end of the day, these are prudential matters. Christians can disagree over these things without there being any necessary rift in fellowship. I am grateful for that!

  • Todd Leonard

    Denny, thanks for posting this…I have been saying much the same thing to many of my fellow brothers who are die-hard (is there any other kind??) RP supporters. George is, I believe, correct. Paul, it seems to me, has a higher regard for the Constitution than he does for the worldview that produced it…true conservatism is rooted in the transcendent moral law…Paul has separated the Declaration from the Constitution, something Santorum has elaborated on in the past few days. Here is a great quote from Herb Schlossberg in Idols: “To the democratic ideology, any action is just if it is approved by majority rule. To the libertarian ideology, any action is just if it is not coercive. Both are thus humanist to the core. In biblical perspective, right and wrong are not determined by the process leading up to their proclamation, but by degree of conformity to the law of God.”

    Blessings, and keep up the great work!


      • Dominic

        This is almost a dead horse. Since it is almost dead, I’ll kick it again. When you say “alone” do you mean in a quirky view of the 14th amendment or support of the unborn? You are lonesome dove with the quirky interpretation.

        If you mean in support of the unborn, we’re right there with you. You are welcome to come with us on Saturday mornings at the abortion clinic on Market Street. And my wife and I have adopted two children from mothers who made a tough choice to keep their children. This is where I think, if I may, respectfully, your blog is a little careless. The average reader, even to include Boyce and Seminary students, reads what you say and runs with it.

        Over and over yesterday people are quoting your blog on facebook/twitter claiming that Ron Paul does not support the rights of the unborn because he doesn’t necessarily agree with a quirky/weak view of the 14th amendment.

        I would again challenge you to research bills that Ron Paul has supported/written/sponsored that would define human life at conception, thus making it illegal to perform abortions. This is absolutely the way forward. Actually, the way forward is revival in America, but until the Lord pours out His Spirit like in days of old, we wait, work, and pray. And pray and pray.

        Talking to counselors who support the abortion clinic miss this point over and over again. They can justify their views of abortion because the literally do not see the unborn child as a human/person. One person challenged me to think of it “as a blob of goop.” And if I thought of it this way, “it would help me sleep at night and prevent me from coming out to harass and infringe on these women’s rights to abort the goop.” So, having a bill passed that would federally/Constitutionally define that the human life begins at conception is paramount. And in all three times Ron Paul has presented this bill to Congress, he has not been able to find ONE co-sponsor! Not one of these so-called right to lifers have stepped up to the plate. So, I would ask that you consider that before you pin him down because he does not agree with your interpretation of the 14th amendment.

        Thanks, good brother for the conversation.


        • Denny Burk

          Our church has also been involved in sidewalk counseling at the abortion clinic, and I have taken part in that myself. I think that it is a good work, and I’m glad to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in that effort.

          But that is not what this dispute is about. I’m not questioning anyone’s commitment to a pro-life ethic. I’m questioning Ron Paul’s constitutional reasoning. I think his approach is the wrong one, and I don’t want the only pro-life party to adopt his approach.

    • JStanton

      Todd, I would say that Paul is right that the Declaration is separate from the Constitution if that is what you mean. The constitution was derived from the People and not from God. Read the Preamble.

  • Ian Hugh Clary

    It strikes me that what Paul is trying to do is keep a pro-choice administration from forcing pro-life states from adopting pro-choice laws. The video post in one of the earlier comments is helpful to understand Paul’s view as well. He says that the things he would do at the federal level is: 1) stop funding pro-choice organizations, domestic and abroad; 2) he also submitted the “We the People Act” bill that would say the state has a law that would relativize Roe. v. Wade, that he thinks would have saved lives if it had been passed. He actually says this is a way of repealing Roe v. Wade.
    He does not argue from a libertarian perspective that the woman has a right to choose to abort, because abortion is an act of violence against the child.

  • Rick Hogaboam


    The fact that you have only pointed out what you believe to be Ron Paul’s deficiencies on this issue raises into question your commitment to the life issue as a non-partisan. Forgive me if you have written detailed pieces on each of the candidates, but if you haven’t, then your appeal that you’re concerned about life and that this is a “deal-breaker”, while at the same time stating you don’t endorse candidates seems to lack the courage I trust you have in your gut.

    As for the Republican plank and thinking that they would be compromising their pro-life commitments if Ron Paul were the nominee does no justice to his long record for the cause of life. Yes, I know, the 14th amendment issue. Let me try to summarize Paul’s position:

    – If Paul said the 14th amendment lacks the federal protection for infants in the womb and that there is nothing we can do about it but hope the court will one day see it differently, then he would not represent adequate pro-life commitments.

    – Even if Paul did believe the 14th amendment was sufficient in itself as a slam-dunk, and chided justices for thinking differently, and vowed to nominate justices that see it that way, thus fulfilling the Republican plank as you understand it, then you get your nominee would not be able to effect any change considering the political climate of judicial nominations.

    – Paul’s position is to employ ALL of the options. Because even conservative justices have reservations about the 14th amendment, Paul realizes that it will require more than simply flipping a couple justices. His understanding of the 14th amendment doesn’t send him home frustrated with his hands in the air, but rather sends him on a mission to exhaust every avenue possible to undo the travesty of Roe v. Wade.

    – Paul does support constitutional protection for the unborn (support for am amendment for some 30+ years) AND legislative protection for the unborn AND executive protection of the unborn. He even left the Episcopal church for a conservative Southern Baptist church partly due to the abortion issue.

    – Paul would not support am amendment if he thought the 14th amendment sufficient in itself. Trust me, he’s not a fan of amending the constitution unless he feels it needs amending. The amendment he supports would bring further clarity because he doesn’t view the 14th amendment as sufficient in itself, but would hardly protest if the court overturned Roe v. Wade based on 14th amendment and it was restricted to the defense of life. Even there, one would need to draft what exceptions would apply. If the 14th amendment forbids the taking of life in a blanket fashion, then one could argue against aborting a baby when it would pose risk to mother and/or another baby in the womb. The intent of the 14th amendment was to assure that one didn’t suffer the loss of life, liberty, or property without due process (assuming habeas corpus for those threatened with such loss as recompense for a crime). Sure this could apply to infants who are deprived of life with no due process, but we need to get the court to acknowledge that the unborn are humans first.

    – The court already recognizes that the “born” as humans deserving of full protection. The issue is the status of the “unborn” in relation to the 14th amendment, which is why Paul has supported legislation to define the “unborn” as humans. That would set the ball rolling and create a Supreme Court showdown. For Paul, you can only apply the 14th amendment to the “unborn” once you pass legislation defining them as citizens with constitutional rights. It is a 3 step process for Paul. 1. Defining “unborn” as citizens. 2. Allowing the states to now enforce the 14th amendment based on such a definition. 3. Supreme Court showdown and/or Constitutional amendment. It is all part of the game-plan. To say he only wants to stop at point 1 or 2 and then make the conclusion he doesn’t believe in constitutional protection is simply not fair and misleading at worse.

    – Ron Paul is the only candidate, besides possibly Santorum, who actually believes in the 14th amendment in its clear context of securing due process for citizens before suffering the loss of life, liberty, or property (filling out the 5th amendment). He is opposed to the NDAA, which does threaten citizens with the loss of liberty and property without due process.

    – Ron Paul is really the only champion of the 14th amendment today against the deterioration of due process. He is also the champion of the “unborn” be vowing to sign into legislation a definition of their personhood AND a constitutional amendment.

    Like previous posters, I would seriously question the way in which you lead the story by its title. You have revised it once and I still think it unfair to Dr. Ron Paul and to your readers. If you don’t want to support Ron Paul, then fine. If you believe he doesn’t properly understand the 14th amendment, then fine. But don’t make reductionist inferences that he is not for federal, and now constitutional protection for the “unborn”. Otherwise, I will await links to your other reviews of every candidate on the abortion issue, since that is what you cite as the motivation behind the post (not endorsing candidates, but speaking up on abortion). I will await your verdict on whether the other candidates lack on this issue in a way that is a “deal-breaker” like you have spoken over Dr. Paul.

    I support Dr. Paul and would also defend the other candidates if they were misrepresented or reduced in a simplified fashion to stand or not stand for what you infer from their positions.

  • Andrew Lindsey

    Thank you for this. I whole-heartedly agree with you, and have been trying to persuade others to consider problems with Paul’s view in not allowing the federal government to have a say in potentially protecting its citizens. (Yes, everyone, I have read your comments above.)

    BTW: I’ve also taken part in standing for life at 2nd and Market in Louisville.

  • William Bennet

    It’s amazing to me how people can see this so differently, yet some of us believe it makes so much sense. It’s really not even about State’s having the decision to make abortion legal or not. That’s the brilliance of it. The facts are as follows:

    – There is currently no Federal law banning abortion.
    – Federal law currently prohibits States from banning abortion.
    – Dr. Paul proposes a measure to define life as beginning at conception, and removing the matter from Supreme Court jurisdiction.
    – Abortion would then be defined by law as murder.
    – Currently, laws prohibiting murder are enforced by the States.

    If a state currently does not enforce a murder law, are you aware of what happens? If I went out and killed someone this morning and my State did nothing, do you think there would be any repercussions? Do some research on that and get back to us.

    The only feasible argument you have is the likelihood of getting this passed through congress. And you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone that this is less likely to happen than your preferred method (Constitutional amendment and/or appointing Justices). The evidence of the last 2, 3, 4 decades is stacked against you.

    Evangelicals have to stop posturing and pandering. If we actually care about the unborn, and it’s not just religious talk, we should take whatever measures we can to end as many abortions as we can. We then can work towards a Federal ban.

    • Paul

      mark my words:

      1) no Republican will EVER put forward any sort of bill that will outlaw abortion.

      2) if I am wrong about point #1, such a bill will not pass. All of the sudden, Republicans in California, New York, New Jersey and northern Illinois will find other problems with the bill. It will not pass.

      3) if I am wrong about #3, it will mark the end of the Republican Party outside of a fringe group in the south and west. Democrats will be able to run on the phrase “barefoot and pregnant” for the next 200 years and win with it.

      Denny and the rest of y’all can ignore those facts as much as you want. But they are the truth. Your best bet is to implement programs that will reduce abortions, because you will never eliminate them from all 50 states for any appreciable amount of time.

  • Scubadriver

    It is my understanding that Ron Paul’s “sanctity of life act” would have legally defined life as beginning at conception by the federal government and placed not only the right, but the responsibility on the states to protect life in the womb by way of the 14th amendment. Therefore if his “we the people” act was to pass and Roe v. Wade was reversed the states would be in charge of enforcing protection of the life of the unborn, not deciding on wether or not abortion should be legal. Again, that is just my understanding, but judging by his record Ron Paul seems to be far more adiment about protecting life by his actions than by his words. It’s almost like he seems to be pandering a little to the pro-abortion side, as though he doesn’t want them to see how detrimental his plans would be to their cause.

    • Vince

      If you place the responsibility for punishment on the states, they can opt for no punishment. What is a law without a punishment? On the other hand, state governments might be banned from involvement in abortions and they may not “endorse” abortion. At worst, they would be hands off.

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