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Tue October 25, 2011
Job 1: Careers That Shaped The GOP Candidates

Before He Delivered For Voters, Paul Delivered Babies

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 11:49 am

Sixth in a series

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul is known for his fervent opposition to armed intervention overseas and the Federal Reserve — and for his equally fervent supporters.

And while those supporters may want him to be the next president for different reasons, they're all well aware that before entering politics, Paul was a doctor back in the southeast Texas district he represents in the U.S. House.

"I think that by being a doctor he's able to address the root causes and not just treat the symptoms of these problems that we're facing as Americans," says Sean Donovan, a supporter from Boston. "And I think that it is truly admirable, his willingness to go that extra step and have a principled approach, and that he doesn't pander to his audience."

Others are simply impressed by his medical resume.

"I think it's pretty cool that he delivered over 4,000 babies, and I think that gives him a leg up on understanding health care issues," says Donna Rode, of Halifax, Pa.

And he really did deliver 4,000 babies, says Donna Paul, who worked as Ron Paul's scrub nurse for 14 years in Lake Jackson, Texas, before marrying one of the doctor's brothers and becoming his sister-in-law.

"They kind of figured it out; it was like one a day for a long time, and I said, 'No, it's more like one a night,' " she says.

Indeed, says Donna Paul, when Ron Paul first set up shop in 1968, he was the only obstetrician in town. "So he went for like three years without ever leaving Lake Jackson; 24-7," she says. "He had no [other doctor] to sign out to."

Eventually Paul got so busy he took on a partner. Jack Pruett, who was then fresh out of his obstetrics/gynecology residency, says when he first sat down in Paul's office, he was told there were two stipulations he would have to agree to before joining the practice.

"He said, 'No. 1 is we will not perform any abortions.' And I said, 'That's fine; I can live with that. What's No. 2?' " he remembers.

No. 2, says Pruett, was that the practice would not participate in any federal health programs, which meant, as Paul described it, "that we will see all Medicare and Medicaid patients free of charge, and they will be treated just like all of our other patients, but we're not going to charge them and accept federal funds."

Still in debt from his medical training, Pruett said that was a little harder for him to swallow. "But I liked Ron, so I decided that I would agree to that, too. And in all those 20 years, we never accepted one penny of federal money. We saw all those patients for free, delivered their babies free, did their surgeries free; whatever they needed we did, and we didn't charge them."

Of course, Lake Jackson being a small town, occasionally Paul would get paid in other ways.

"Some of the people would bring chickens, or they would bring vegetables from their garden if they couldn't afford to pay for their obstetrical fee," recalls Richard Hardoin, a pediatrician who used to care for the babies Paul delivered.

In the mid-1970s, Paul decided to run for Congress to fill an unexpected vacancy — and won. But he didn't give up his practice, at least not at first.

"Back in those years Congress didn't work on Friday, and so every Friday he would fly back to Lake Jackson," says Pruett, "and he would help me then on Friday and Saturday, and oftentimes take call on Sunday, and oftentimes catch the red-eye back to Washington on Monday. And I guess he did that every single week for nine years."

But he's never changed any of his long-held views for political gain, say those who knew him then.

Abortion is a good example. Although he ran for president as a libertarian in 1988, Paul breaks with most members of that party (and many in his medical specialty) in that he opposes the procedure.

In a speech before the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa in August, Paul said he turned against abortion during his medical training in the 1960s, when many doctors were doing abortions in violation of the laws at the time.

"One day I walked into an operating room, and they did a hysterotomy, which is a cesarean section, lifted out a baby that was crying and breathing, and put it in a bucket in the corner of the room and let it die, and pretended nobody heard it," he told the audience.

Meanwhile, just down the hall, he said, a baby about the same size was being born prematurely, he said, "and all of a sudden 20 people, nurses and doctors, all [were] rushing around to save the baby's life, which seemed very logical."

Paul said he reached an inescapable conclusion from that event: "We cannot play God and make those decisions; all life is precious."

But Paul doesn't toe the anti-abortion line as zealously as some of his fellow GOP candidates. He wouldn't ban the so-called morning-after pill, for example, which some activists say prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus.

"There are circumstances where doctors in the past have used certain day-after pills for somebody with rape, and quite frankly, if somebody is treated, you don't even know if a person is pregnant, you don't even know if there's a disease; but if it's 24 hours after rape, I don't know how you're going to police it," he said. "It doesn't make any sense to me in a practical matter."

One position that probably does satisfy both Republicans and libertarians, however, is that Paul believes that all health insurance should be voluntary.

And if an uninsured 30-year-old needs expensive medical care? That was the hypothetical posed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the debate co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express in September.

Replied Paul: "That's what freedom is all about; taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody ..."

Paul said "no" when Blitzer interrupted to ask if he meant that "society should just let him die?"

But it turns out the case wasn't so hypothetical. In 2008, 49-year-old Kent Snyder, who ran Paul's presidential bid that year, was struck by pneumonia. He died a few weeks later — without health insurance — and reportedly with more than $400,000 in unpaid hospital bills.

Even that, however, hasn't made a dent in Paul's position.

And as he's proved over and over again in both his medical and political careers, Paul has satisfied his constituency by taking positions and sticking to them.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is probably best known for his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for his calls to end the Fed. Dr. Paul, as he's known to his supporters, is no Ph.D. He's an actual medical doctor, an obstetrician in fact, who has delivered thousands of babies in the southeast Texas district that he now represents in Congress. We've been looking at early jobs held by the presidential contenders in a series called Job One. Here's NPR's Julie Rovner.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: During his runs for president, Ron Paul's supporters have become famous for their fervent devotion to their candidate. But they actually support him for very different reasons.

SEAN DONVAN: Ron Paul's stance on non-interventionist foreign policy...

PAUL SALADINO: Primarily his position on fiscal issues.

DONNA RODE: Because of his upholding the Constitution, wants to restore our Republic; that's very important to me.

ROVNER: That was Sean Donovan of Boston, Paul Saladino of Austin, Texas, and Donna Rode, of Halifax, Pennsylvania. But while they may support Paul for different reasons, one thing they have in common is that they're all well aware of Paul's background as a doctor. Again, Donna Rode.

RODE: I mean, I think it's pretty cool that he delivered over 4,000 babies, and I think that gives him a leg up on understanding healthcare issues.

ROVNER: And he really did deliver 4,000 babies, says Donna Paul, who worked as Ron Paul's scrub nurse for 14 years in Lake Jackson, Texas, before marrying one of the doctor's brothers and becoming his sister-in-law.

DONNA PAUL: They kind of figured it out, it was like one a day for a long time, and I said no, it's more like one a night.

ROVNER: Indeed, when Ron Paul first set up shop in 1968, he was the only obstetrician in town.

PAUL: So he went for, like, three years without ever leaving Lake Jackson; 24/7.

ROVNER: Eventually Paul got so busy he took on a partner. Jack Pruett, who was then fresh out of residency, says when he first sat down in Paul's office, he was told there were two stipulations he would have to agree to before joining the practice.

DR. JACK PRUETT: And he said, number one is we will not perform any abortions. And I said that's fine, I can live with that. What's number two?

ROVNER: Number two was that the practice would not participate in any federal health programs. Still in debt from his medical training, Pruett said that was a little harder for him to swallow.

PRUETT: But I liked Ron, so I decided that I would agree to that, too. And in all those 20 years, we never accepted one penny of federal money. We saw all those patients for free; delivered their babies for free, did their surgeries free.

ROVNER: Of course Lake Jackson being a small town, occasionally Paul would get paid in other ways, recalls Richard Hardoyne, a pediatrician who used to care for the babies Paul delivered.

DR. PAUL HARDOYNE: Some of the people would bring, you know, chickens or they would bring vegetables for him, from their garden, if they couldn't afford to pay their obstetrical fee.

ROVNER: Paul first ran for Congress - and won - in 1976 as a Republican. He's also run for President as a Libertarian. But as his former partner notes, Paul's opposition to abortion long predates any interest in electoral politics. In a speech at the Ames Straw poll last summer, Paul talked about how he turned against the procedure during his medical training in the early 1960s.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL REPUBLICAN, TEXAS: One day I walked into an operating room and they did a hysterotomy, which is a cesarean section, lifted out a baby that was crying and breathing, and put it in a bucket in the corner of the room and let it die and pretended nobody heard it.

ROVNER: But Paul doesn't toe the anti-abortion line as zealously as some of his fellow GOP candidates. He wouldn't ban the so-called morning after pill, for example, which some activists say prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus. Here's how he explained it during the debate sponsored by Fox News and Google.

TEXAS: Quite frankly, if somebody is treated you don't even know if a person is pregnant, you don't even if there's a disease, but if it's 24 hours after rape, I don't know how you're going to police it.

ROVNER: But while his position on abortion is unlikely to fully satisfy either evangelical Republicans or Libertarians, his position on health insurance probably does: he is absolutely convinced individuals alone should decide whether or not they want to purchase coverage. And if an uninsured 30 year old needs expensive medical care? That's the hypothetical posed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the debate cosponsored by the Tea Party Express.

TEXAS: That's what freedom is all about; taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody...

WOLF BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yes.

TEXAS: No...

ROVNER: That's Paul saying no. Now, that clip is mostly remembered for the audience members who seemed so eager to let the unfortunate uninsured stranger expire. But in fact, the case Blitzer cited wasn't all that hypothetical. In 2008, Paul's former campaign director, 49 year old Kent Snyder, was struck by pneumonia. He died a few weeks later — without health insurance — and reportedly with more than $400,000 dollars in unpaid hospital bills. But that hasn't altered Paul's position.

TEXAS: We've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves, our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea - that's the reason the cost is so high.

ROVNER: And as he's proved over and over again, in both his medical and political careers, Paul has satisfied his constituency by taking positions and sticking to them.

Julie Rovner, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.