Senator Rand Paul is a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016. He’s got a loyal following in the Tea Party base. Lately, Senator Paul’s seemingly measured approach to the shutdown, compared to Senator Ted Cruz, made him seem like the most serious contender of the Tea Party favorites that has Senator Marco Rubio on the outs.
But if Senator Paul is going to be considered a serious contender for the Republican nomination, he needs to do better than he did today stumping for Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, when he compared legal abortion to eugenics. Eugenics — trying to improve the human race by selecting and breeding babies with only with the most desirable traits — is an ugly blight on world history and yet also seems like something out of science fiction. A ruthless villain attempts to create a society in his image and begins breeding a master race is a narrative that you are used to seeing at your local IMAX, not at a serious political gathering.
So it should come as no surprise that Rachel Maddow reported last night that Senator Paul appears to have plagiarized the Wikipedia page for the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca. In his fearmongering eugenics remarks Paul told the virulently anti-choice Cuccinelli supporters, “In the movie Gattaca, in the not-too-distant future, eugenics is common and DNA plays a primary role in determining your social class.” Paul went on to say, “Due to frequent screenings, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way to achieve his dream of being an astronaut is he has to become what’s called a “borrowed ladder.”
“In your lifetime, much of your potential — or lack thereof — can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek,” Paul said to a packed sporting arena on Jerry Falwell’s Liberty campus. “Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?”
Not only does Senator Paul rant nonsensically about eugenics in connection to a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, he can’t even manage to be original. This hysteria about short people being eliminated in the not-so-distant future makes Paul sound like someone who should be laughed out of the halls of power, but alas, our political environment today deems him serious and lucid.
This abortion-as-eugenics argument is not new. The anti-choice movement often cites this as a reason to ban abortions and creates often-repeated mythology around Planned Parenthood as a eugenics conspiracy plot. But conspiracies that are normally found in the comments section in the deepest bowels of the interwebs normally don’t come out of the mouths of sitting Senators.
As the fight for women’s reproductive freedom continues in earnest on the state level, the anti-choicers that Paul was trying to pander to, should have to explain why they should be taken seriously, when they are driven by the plot of a science fiction movie. They might also be surprised to learn that abortion would not be an effective mechanism for eugenics. The word Senator Paul was looking for is sterilization, which is something that has a long history in the United States that leads directly to the present for women of color and low-income women. Just this summer a new report documented how women incarcerated in California were sterilized without approval. Women of color and low-income women are also those least likely to have access to affordable reproductive health care options; options Republicans would further erode if they got their way with regards to legal abortion.
Senator Paul may either want to scrap all the eugenics talk, which doesn’t make any sense when it comes to abortion, before people figure out he’s not to be taken seriously.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.