Full Interview with Ron Paul: the Real Constitutional Answer to Roe v. Wade
By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The following is the text of the complete interview with Ron Paul by LifeSiteNews.com:
LifeSiteNews.com: Many in the pro-life community believe they actually have to wait for a change in the make-up of the Supreme Court before Roe v. Wade is overturned. What is your take on this?
Paul: Well I think they might have a long wait. They’ve already been waiting a long, long time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to move the courts in that direction, but there is a lot faster way of doing that. And that is to restrict or limit the jurisdiction of the abortion issue from the federal courts. And I have a piece of legislation that would do that where if a Roe v. Wade incident came up again like it did in Texas a long time ago, it could not be heard by the federal courts and the state law then would stand.
That law restricting this jurisdiction can be done by a majority vote in the House and the Senate and the President’s signature. I have worked on that, especially when we had the majority as Republicans – but I couldn’t get people too interested in it. I think we could do it quicker.
It isn’t the perfect solution. The argument I hear against it is “oh, all you’re doing is legalizing abortion in the states.” But if you don’t do something like that, you allow the federal government to stand and legalize it for every single state. I see it as an answer and that doesn’t restrain anybody from trying to amend the Constitution, or waiting to change the Supreme Court. But I think many, many abortions would be prevented, just think if we had passed that back in 1975. You know some states may still have abortions, but there would be a lot of states would not have it. We would have to work within our states, and that, of course, is the way the Constitution is written, and that is the reason I pushed it in that direction.
LSN: So Congress actually has a constitutional power to take away certain areas from the Supreme Court?
Paul: Yes, that is right. It is written in the Constitution that we have that jurisdiction, because [the founders] never wanted the courts to be supreme, they never wanted the executive branch to be supreme, the founders wanted the Congress to be supreme. They always thought the Congress would be the closest to the people, and more likely to do the right thing, and they would be pushed out of office if they didn’t.
But too often in the last 100 years, Congress has been much more willing to give up their prerogatives to the executive branch, which means that goes into the administrative courts; the agencies of government write laws – that’s all unconstitutional – Congress doesn’t declare war anymore, it’s now up to the President.
And when you think about it, the courts do a lot of legislating: Roe v. Wade is a perfect example. They didn’t just rule, “is this law constitutional or unconstitutional?” If you read that decision, they dictate policy in the first trimester, the second trimester, and under certain circumstances you can do it in the third trimester. And the way they have medical designations in there – as an Ob doctor, I would be outraged to think some court is going to tell people how to practice medicine.
So Congress has a right to limit that jurisdiction, and I’ve always argued that is what we should do.
LSN: Now what about the argument that your solution would pose a danger to the separation of powers or even the independence of the judiciary.
Paul: Well, they are not supposed to be totally separate, because a balance of powers is what you want. And like I mentioned, it was really intended that if you have one branch of government more supreme than the others, it would be the Congress. So you don’t want total judicial independence, because they would become too powerful âEUR¦ just this issue that we are talking about shows us how strong they are.
So no, we don’t want judicial independence. We want to have an option. We do not want total separation so much as a balance. So if the Congress gets way out of whack and start doing things that are obviously contradictory to everything in the Constitution, the courts can come in and rule it unconstitutional. But if courts get out of whack, Congress is supposed to rein them in.
LSN: Are there any recent examples of Congress reigning in the court?
Paul: It has been used, but sparingly. It is not a common thing, but it is there in the Constitution.
LSN: What ability do states have to take action against Roe v. Wade?
Paul: Essentially, if my bill would be passed, and another case came up: the state passes a law and they would repeal Roe v. Wade for their state. The federal government couldn’t come in and override what the state does.
So [the states] don’t really directly deal with Roe v. Wade by saying, “We hereby repeal Roe v. Wade.” You would have to have a Supreme Court ruling or an amendment to the Constitution to do that. But you would essentially exempt yourself from the dictates of Roe v. Wade, if the state chose to pass a law and it could not be heard in the Supreme Court. So it would be a ‘de facto’ repeal of Roe v. Wade.
LSN: A number of pro-life leaders contend that the whole issue of abortion needs to be decided at the federal level rather than by the states. But you seem to think the issue of deciding abortion on a state-by-state basis would actually be to the advantage of the pro-life movement. Can you explain?
Paul: Well, because the fact that they want to do it at a federal level is a total failure. How many abortions have there been since 1973, since it was legalized by Roe v. Wade? So they don’t have any argument that that would be a better way. They would argue – and I would agree – that my suggestion is not perfect, because there would still be abortions done. But in some states there would be a lot less abortions done. That would be my argument.
LSN: But would not allowing the issue to come to the states, also give pro-lifers in those areas a lot more control and influence in the legislative process than they have at the federal level?
Paul: It would be a lot easier to change a state law than it would be to change a Supreme Court ruling. That would be a real encouragement for right to life activists, you know, to be involved.
LSN: What is your take on the “personhood amendments” being brought forward in a number of states as an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade in those states?
Paul: I think that is great. I think anything that emphasizes personhood and legal entity is good.
LSN: How then can the pro-life community get Congress to end the gridlock over abortion caused by Roe in full respect of the U.S. Constitution?
Paul: Well that is a job, because in a way you have to address the national right to life movement and get a different understanding of the Constitution. It seems too often that when somebody wants to get something done, and if they can sort of bend the Constitution a little bit, then they will do that to try to achieve it – in this sense of dealing with abortion, we’ll only solve it with a national law.
But they don’t do this with other things. The whole concept of our government and our constitutional system we have is that all acts of violence would be dealt with at the state level, unless for some reason a federal building or something is involved. But murder, rape, manslaughter – these are all taken care of at the state level. But all of a sudden, they want to deal with this at the national level – it is just not consistent with what we do.
Overall I believe that the system is a good system, where you have 50 states trying to solve problems rather than one government. [Roe] is a good demonstration of when you rely on the central government to solve difficult problems, and they make the wrong decision.
If there would have been enough strict constitutionalists back then, even in the courts – if I had been on the court, I would not have heard the case – it would have been a neutral debate with a neutral position. It is up to the states to make these decisions.
LSN: Do you think there is the possibility of creating a political momentum or will in Congress to get this matter back to the states and end the polarizing debate over abortion that has gripped the federal government?
Paul: I think we are in worse shape than ever to get a consensus in Congress. The time when we were supposed to have done that – as you know the Republican party and the conservatives have always said they are right to life – there was no attempt at all, when we had control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency to move in this direction.
The law is very, very important, and I always work to change the law and try to protect life, but ultimately the law is secondary to the basic morality of the people. I was a [medical] resident in the 1960s and the law was pretty strong and pretty clear against abortion, but they were doing abortions all the time. They were defying the law. The sixties were a loud decade. And yet the courts came along and they sort of confirmed what the moral standards were in the country.
It’s not that the courts came along and legalized it and all of a sudden we had a lot of abortions. It was that the people and their standard of morality changed, and the laws changed. So I approach it in both ways. Change the law, and work for change in the law. But I also realize that the law will change when the people change, and that’s probably the bigger problem we have in this country.