Big Debate

Rand Paul’s Plan B for Pro-Life Critics

The likely GOP presidential candidate stands up to the pro-life extremists in his party, endorsing science over emotion.

10.05.14 9:45 AM ET

Being pro-life is all fun and games until you realize the movement would sooner endorse witchcraft over science, apparently. 

When Rand Paul introduced a “personhood” amendment to an unrelated flood insurance bill in 2012, some in the media and even Senate majority leader Harry Reid branded him a pro-life extremist. The amendment’s definition of a human being would include fertilized eggs, effectively nullifying Roe v. Wade. Given that, when Paul recently proclaimed that he supports birth control — including Plan B — it seemed as though he might be tacitly endorsing aborting “people” as his own amendment defined them. 

While on a college tour in South Carolina this week, a red-headed woman in a baseball cap asked Paul if drugs that prevent conception, like Plan B, should be legal. Paul, leaning gracelessly on the side of the podium, stated matter-of-factly: “I’m not opposed to birth control.” He paused and shrugged. “That’s basically what Plan B is. Plan B is taking two birth control pills in the morning and two in the evening. I’m not opposed to that, or don’t think there should be any laws opposing that.” 

As reported by The Daily Beast, Paul’s statement resulted in the prominent social conservative Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, attacking him on Twitter — which left Team Paul “fuming.” 

My nemesis Bryan Fischer, radio host and the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, wrote that by endorsing Plan B, Paul had “jeopardized his pro-life credentials and his 2016 chances…” 

And pro-life bloggers wondered if they should “disqualify” Paul from garnering their support in the upcoming presidential primary. 

But here’s the thing:  Perhaps unsurprisingly, science is way ahead of these anti-abortion fringe figures attempting to push the Kentucky Senator and early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination into hot water. It turns out his position on life is consistent, if extreme, after all. 

“Senator Paul is 100 percent pro-life — and in favor of contraception, as he stated plainly the other day,” Doug Stafford, a senior aide for Paul, told The Daily Beast on Saturday. “Contraception is not abortion, and those who misunderstand this subject do harm to the pro-life cause.”

Paul’s very own Life at Conception Act of 2013 (separate from the 2012 amendment) explicitly defines a “person” as including “each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.” (Emphasis mine) 

But that doesn’t mean much to pro-lifers who think Plan B is an abortifacient. 

The pro-life community is under the impression that Plan B prevents fertilized eggs, which they agree with Paul are people, from implanting, which they consider an abortion. By way of justification for this contention, they cite the FDA’s own Plan B label, which says: “if fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation).” In fairness to the pro-life crowd, if you attempt to find an explanation for how Plan B works on the internet, the FDA’s label is one of the first search results. 

But as The Daily Beast reported in March, the FDA’s label is out of date. Studies have repeatedly shown that Plan B ok “does not inhibit implantation.” As a result, the NIH and the Mayo Clinic have edited their websites to remove any suggestion that Plan B could cause abortion, however a “person” may be defined. 

Inaccurate label notwithstanding, Plan B is classified by the FDA as a contraceptive. Research has concluded that the drug works “only” by preventing ovulation. 

“The problem is, some on both sides are using outdated science, some from decades ago,” Stafford continued. “Not surprisingly, and not helpfully, the government can’t seem to update its outdated misinformation.”

“Contraception does not cause an abortion.” Furthermore, Stafford said, “there is ample, current science to back this up, and people of good faith on both sides of this issue should be able to agree on that. Senator Paul will take a back seat to no one in his defense for human life, but also as a medical doctor, won’t allow bad information to force people to discuss something that should not even be an issue,  and does nothing to stop the nearly one million abortions per year in the United States.”