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Paul's First 2016 Skirmish? An Abortion Fight with Wasserman Schultz

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) continued his "Stand with Rand" presidential campaign kickoff tour today on the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, but the headlines the in first days of his 2016 bid have belonged to his fight with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) over abortion.

It started with an interview Paul gave to the Associated Press in which he didn't say whether he believed there should be exceptions for rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother. "I've supported both bills with and without (exceptions), you know. In general, I am pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection," he said.

Asked again about abortion on a campaign stop, Paul responded, "Why don't we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and go ask (DNC head) Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a 7-pound baby that's just not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and ask Debbie when she's willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me."

Wasserman Schultz did respond in a statement: “Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women –– but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of ‘personal liberty’? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ‘shushing’ me.”

The last line was a dig at how critics consider Paul's way of interacting with female reporters sexist.

The Republican National Committee jumped into the fray with a statement of their own. “DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made clear her extreme position on the issue of life,” said RNC Press Secretary Allison Moore. “It’s disturbing to know that the chairwoman of the DNC supports zero protections for the life of an unborn child, not even in the final days before birth. We should be willing to protect the innocent. Do her fellow Democrats share their party chair's position, which is out-of-step with the majority of American women?"

Paul told CNN that "it sounds like her answer is yes, that she's okay with killing a seven pound baby."

"Not everybody agrees on the issue. But even most of my friends who are pro-choice will tell me they're not okay with seven and eight and nine pound abortions," the senator said.

"They aren’t okay with really end stage when the baby's fully developed. There's a bit of doubt and discussion earlier in pregnancy but Debbie's position, which I guess is the Democrat Party position, that an abortion all the way up until the day of birth would be fine, I think really most pro-choice people would be a little uncomfortable with that. I don't know."

Paul said Wasserman Schultz has "got some explaining to do, and if that's the position of the party a lot of pro-choice people will be uncomfortable with that position."

"The thing is, is that there is a role for government in our lives and the role is basically to prevent violence. So when a baby is born, I'm a physician and so I examine babies in the neonatal nursery often. Two pounds, they can fit in the sometimes, the babies in the palm of my hand. Everybody agrees that that baby that I examine has rights, that no one can injure that baby and the government has a role to come, even into the household if a mother or dad or relative is somehow injuring a baby, that the baby has rights," he said.

"So somehow we have to decide when does a baby get rights. So a one pound baby has rights but a seven pound baby in the uterus still getting ready to be born or a nine pound baby would have no rights. It seems like an abrupt sort of diminution of rights that all of a sudden you have rights and then a couple minutes before you didn't have rights. These are very, very difficult discussions and then that's a question of when does life begin, and I don't think we all agree on that. I personally believe that life is special, that human life is special and that there is a sanctity and that we are more than just, you know, clay and dirt."