An Open Letter to Senator Rand Paul on Healthcare Reform and Planned Parenthood

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By John Zmirak, a Senior Editor, The Stream,  Sept. 23, 2017

Dear Senator Paul,

John ZmirakLet me start by saying “Thank you.” On issue after issue, from individual privacy to economic freedom, from constitutional war-making to criminal justice reform, you have been a light in an often murky Senate and a muddled GOP. In the 2016 election, I supported you for the nomination. Here at The Stream I wrote in 2015:

I’d like to thank Rand Paul for fighting the misnamed Patriot Act, in the teeth of his party’s leadership. Yes, there is room for public debate among thoughtful conservatives about where and how to draw the line for the NSA and for other government agencies tracking possible terrorists. But it’s thanks in no small part to Paul that we’re having that spirited public debate, and that the cause of limited government remains such a prominent part of that conversation. Paul’s filibuster reminded me of candidate Ronald Reagan at his best, fighting uphill against the pro-choice, pro-detente GOP elites. It was what historians call a “presidential moment.”

Your stand on foreign policy in the 2016 election was equally brave and principled. Here at The Stream I echoed your sensible objections to the Syria policies of GOP establishment politicians. You were right in warning against Marco Rubio’s support for arming Syrian rebels. And against Chris Christie’s proposal to threaten to shoot down Russian planes in defense of jihadists. Indeed, you helped lead the fight to stop President Obama from a reckless and destructive U.S. intervention in Syria a year before.

You have been a voice of principle, of course. In the Republican party you may have the best claim to Reagan’s mantle. His optimism, his confidence that Americans would prevail if the government simply protected their rights and left them alone … there’s too little of that spirit in the GOP today, much less in the country. In an age where the competition seems to be for the label of “victim,” you carry on like the Gipper.

The Best Voice for Ordered Liberty

But you’re not just an ideologue. You realized that the libertarian movement in recent decades had often strayed from the path of prudence. Many strains of it scoff at ordered liberty, and recklessly embrace license. You echo our nation’s founders in seeing that Anglo-American liberty is grounded in Christian faith. In a sense of the limits of liberty, and of moral responsibility. That is why you’re pro-life. You echo your father, Ron Paul on this crucial issue.

How do I know that? From the book he wrote on the subject. Why do I have it? Because his 2008 campaign manager gave it to me. That was after I worked to arrange a talk at a New Hampshire college in primary season. (Google my name and you’ll find my modest donation to his campaign.)

So it’s in the spirit of admiration that I write today.

The Graham Cassidy Bill: Imperfect, Like the Constitution

I urge you to reconsider your position. To support an imperfect bill for the sake of the greater good. The Graham-Cassidy Bill is not the repeal of Obamacare that any of us hoped for. It doesn’t dismantle the huge array of perverse incentives, subsidies, and crony-capitalist tinkering that distort American medicine. However, as National Review has noted, it does make some real progress. It does restore some liberty. In fact, the bill offers some concrete benefits not to be sneezed at. Per NRO:

It abolishes the individual and employer mandates, caps per capita spending on Medicaid, blocks federal funds from going to insurance plans that cover abortion, and lets interested states attain freedom from some of Obamacare’s regulations. Some of those states could use that freedom to create markets in which people outside of Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-based coverage would finally be enabled to buy cheap, renewable catastrophic-insurance policies.

All of those are important improvements. But I’d like to focus on one. Pro-life groups have put heavy pressure on you to reverse your stand on this bill. That’s because it’s the one plausible chance to accomplish something which you’ve tried manfully to do on several occasions: to defund Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood, Enemy of Freedom

If there is one organization that embodies the opposite of everything in your political philosophy, this is the group. It was founded by a Progressive eugenicist, Margaret Sanger. She proposed a “Federal Baby Code.” It would have forced would-be parents to apply for a license every time they wished to have a child. She succeeded in passing bills in 13 states that forcibly sterilized Americans for flunking culturally biased IQ tests.

Her organization has since become a full-throated supporter of abortion for all nine months. It performs hundreds of thousands of them every year. It pays for them with money seized from taxpayers by the state. Its Chinese branch helped punish women who resisted that country’s One Child policy. Around the world it supports coercive, statist schemes of population control. Apart from the Communist Party, USA or the Ku Klux Klan, it’s hard to think of another group more opposed to ordered liberty.

And we have a chance to starve it of taxpayer funding. That could save lives across America, as women seek out better options for health care. Some of them keep their babies.

In a broader sense, if you cast the deciding vote in taking away Planned Parenthood’s funding, that could help you achieve something crucial. In 2016, many evangelical Christians backed Donald Trump. They thought him a culture warrior who would defend their interests. He has repaid their support on some issues, but not on others. He made a good Supreme Court appointment. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But he has not acted to protect their freedom of conscience from spurious anti-discrimination claims. Nor has he stopped the Justice Department from pretending that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to LGBT issues — a false Obama-era claim that threatens religious liberty. He has not acted aggressively to defund Planned Parenthood.

Reclaim the GOP for Liberty

It’s crucial to keep the close attachment that evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics have had to American ideals of liberty. We don’t want the growth of a statist, nationalist party in America along the lines of France’s National Front. That’s not our GOP.

With your principled stand on life, your balanced stance on immigration, you could help anchor the party. You might well come to lead it. But if you get blamed for the failure to defund Planned Parenthood, and undo at least some of Obamacare’s damage. … I fear that will never happen.

So please, Senator Paul. The causes of life and liberty are here in perfect alignment. So is political prudence. And your own lofty ambitions, which I support. Please change your vote.


John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.

He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at Success magazine and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, FrontPage Magazine, The American Conservative, The South Carolina Review, Modern Age, The Intercollegiate Review, Commonweal, and The National Catholic Register, among other venues. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. During 2012 he was editor of Crisis.

He is author, co-author, or editor of eleven books, including Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist, The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel) and The Race to Save Our Century. He was editor of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s guide to higher education, Choosing the Right College and, for ten years, and is also editor of Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind.