Paul Rand CPAC 2013
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 14, 2013. Reuters

The media’s sudden embrace of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as a plausible 2016 presidential candidate may be pushing the outspoken and maverick lawmaker back toward his libertarian roots.

During an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Paul appeared to waver from his previously professed belief that all abortion should be illegal, because it is tantamount to killing a living human being. In fact, the senator – who, like his father former Rep. Ron Paul, is a physician – only last week introduced a so-called “personhood” bill that would completely outlaw abortion in the U.S. by declaring that human life begins at conception.

But Paul’s commitment to the personhood agenda apparently faltered when asked if he believes there should be exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“What I would say is there are thousands of exceptions,” Paul responded. “I’m a physician, and every individual case is going to be different. Everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what is going on that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother…. I think it is important we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeonhole and say this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family and physician.”

Paul added that there are “a lot of complicated things the law may not ultimately be able to address in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family.”

A call to Paul's Capitol Hill office was not immediately returned.

As a person who often identifies as a libertarian, Paul’s comments appear to support the idea that a woman’s personal health should not be dictated by the government. But his “Life at Conception Act” would “declare what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.”

In a fundraising video for the National Pro-Life Alliance last year, Paul said the legislation could somehow outlaw abortion without contravening the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. But that clause technically applies only to state governments.

And yet, in his CNN appearance, Paul not only seemed to make the case that outlawing abortion could undermine a woman’s health and well-being. He also implied it could violate doctor-patient confidentiality.

Paul was wrong, however, when he implied most of the country agrees with his personhood agenda. Forty-eight percent of Americans consider themselves to be pro-choice, according to a recent Gallup analysis. The numbers suggest that even those who identify themselves as “pro-life” believe there are exceptions – although the organization reports only 28 percent of voters said they believe abortion should be legal “under any circumstances.”