Ron Paul’s Anti-Abortion Position

There was a link on Facebook to the following post on the RonPaul2012 website with the title “Reagan’s Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on Ron Paul’s Pro-Life Credentials.” It includes the following: “Paul’s first book written in 1983 was titled Abortion and Liberty. The foreword was written by C. Everett Koop, the pro-life Surgeon General appointed by Ronald Reagan.”

Using Dr. Koop’s 1983 endorsement is a reminder that when some conservatives get into office, they compromise. Dr. Koop had impeccable pro-life credentials before he became Ronald Reagan’s choice for Surgeon General. There was great pressure on Reagan from Evangelicals to nominate Dr. Koop because they had voted for the president in record numbers. Based on the following, Dr. Koop’s endorsement does not mean that much to me.

Dr. Koop was the co-author with Christian apologist and “guru of fundamentalism” (as Newsweek described him in 1982) Francis A. Schaeffer1 of Whatever Happened to the Human Race? After a contentious confirmation hearing, Dr. Koop became Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan. Liberals attacked him because of his anti-abortion stance and his relationship with Schaeffer. “The nomination was held up for more than eight months. Only after Dr. Koop promised to abandon the antiabortion circuit and to refrain from using the Surgeon General’s office as a pulpit for his right-to-life beliefs did the Senate finally vote its approval.”2

Under questioning, Koop admitted that as Surgeon General, he would recommend abortion as one way of dealing with the unborn children of mothers with AIDS. By the spring of 1987, Koop was self-consciously in retreat from his earlier Christian position. With respect to abortion, he commented, “I’ve written all that I have to write on that issue. There are other, bigger things that I should turn my attention to as surgeon general: Where this country is and where it’s going in health care.”3

In 1986 and 1987, Koop officially called for sex education on AIDS in the public schools as early as kindergarten and for public school instruction on how to use condoms. Homosexuality had become a politically protected lifestyle. “I am the surgeon general of the heterosexuals and the homosexuals,” Koop argued, “of the young and the old, of the moral and the immoral, the married and the unmarried. I don’t have the luxury of deciding which side I want to be on.”4 He had retreated to what Schaeffer called “the line of despair.”5

This so-called neutral moral position cost people their lives. Koop should have come out denouncing the behaviors that were causing AIDS. He did it with smoking. Why was “safe sodomy” an option but not safe smoking? Cigarette smoking kills, the government was telling everyone. Laws had been passed to make it increasingly more difficult for people to smoke in public buildings. Tobacco products are heavily taxed. Do we find the following on cigarette packs? “Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health. . . . So be sure to use a filter if you decide to smoke.” Koop was calling for condoms (filters) to help curtail the transmission of AIDS instead of denouncing the behavior that was spreading AIDS.

There is a related issue on Ron Paul changing his position on a federal prohibition of abortion. One of the reasons many Christians will not vote for Ron Paul is because he has taken a “states rights” position on abortion. While he calls for “preventing activist judges from interfering with state decisions on life by removing abortion from federal court jurisdiction through legislation modeled after his ‘We the People Act,’” he seems to have taken the position that states should be free either to outlaw or legalize abortion. They get it from a statement like this one:

Under the 9th and 10th amendments, all authority over matters not specifically addressed in the Constitution remains with state legislatures. Therefore the federal government has no authority whatsoever to involve itself in the abortion issue. So while Roe v. Wade is invalid, a federal law banning abortion across all 50 states would be equally invalid.

This is troubling for a lot of people. Would he say the same thing about slavery or involuntary euthanasia at the state level? Paul writes that there is a “God-given right to life — for those born and unborn.” Consider these words from Paul’s website:

After being forced to witness an abortion being performed during his time in medical school, he knew from that moment on that his practice would focus on protecting life. And during his years in medicine, never once did he find an abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Paul is correct that the Constitution does not deal with moral issues like rape, abortion, or even murder of adults. But if states started killing children or adults or permitted the rape of women for what were believed to be state-sanctioned reasons, would these be actions for a higher (federal) government to outlaw? I’d be interested in hearing what Dr. Paul’s answer since he argues that pre-born children are equal to born children.

What’s interesting is that Paul’s book Abortion and Liberty seems to advocate a federal solution. Here’s what he wrote on pages 34 and 35:

Senator Jesse Helms [1921-2008] has written and introduced a Human Life Amendment. He contends that: “A constitutional amendment must be worded, like the Constitution itself, in terms of general principles.”

Conforming to this, the amendment he wrote is brief and general in nature:

“The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency.”

A Constitutional provision should never have been necessary, but now it is. Without this change in the Constitution, the division and dissension in the country over abortion will get worse. . . . We cannot deny constitutional protection to the unborn, but we should not be complacent and think that this in itself solves the problem. The problem is fundamentally moral, not legal. The Constitution by itself cannot establish the proper moral attitude of a nation. The real change will not be achieved by the politicians, but must come from our moral and religious philosophers.

Something has changed with Dr. Paul on the abortion issue since he wrote these words. If he returned to this very reasonable view, he would see his support rise among Evangelicals. He might even get the nomination.

  1. “In March of 2005, World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky asked, “Who’s the major figure behind the election and re-election of George W. Bush?”  His answer?  Francis Schaeffer. Olasky went on to argue that Schaeffer’s film, How Should We Then Live?, and book, A Christian Manifesto, helped push many evangelicals into political action, convincing them that if Christians did not get involved ‘Western civilization would go down the drain.’” (Source). []
  2. Quoted in Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 199. []
  3. Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 1004–1006. []
  4. Quoted in North, Political Polytheism, 201. []
  5. []
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