Fresh off the positive buzz he engendered for his performance in the first Republican presidential debate of the season, Marco Rubio once again stood strongly behind his pro-life stance on abortion on Sunday, including his belief that there should be no exceptions, even in the case of rape and incest.
“I personally and deeply believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws,” Rubio told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press. “I do, and I believe that irrespective of the conditions by which that life was conceived or anything else, and for me to be consistent on that belief, that’s why I feel so strongly about it.”
Critics pounced on Rubio after Thursday night’s debate, saying that in fact he was a cosponsor of the Senate’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, introduced in 2013. The bill would have prohibited abortion except in certain circumstances, including if “the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the result of incest against a minor.” The legislation would have also included an exception if the woman’s life was at risk.
Rubio justified that vote on Sunday, saying he understood that in order to have “consensus” with laws that limit the number of abortions in America, he has supported legislation in the past that does include exceptions for rape and incest, even though he personally believes that such a pregnancy should still occur.
“A rape is an act of violence,” he acknowledged to Todd. “It’s a horrifying thing that happens, and fortunately the number of abortions in this country due to rape are very small, less than one percent of the cases in the world. But they happen, and they’re horrifying and they’re tragic, and I recognize that. I also recognize that because of the existence of over the counter the morning after (pills) – not to mention medical treatment that’s now available immediately after the morning of the assault, that should be widely available to victims, we can bring that number down to zero.”
Democrats are seizing on Rubio’s stance (along with Jeb Bush’s remarks last week that too much money was being spent on women’s health issue) to suggest that Republicans are still promulgating a “war on women” mentality, a stance that Republicans have blasted as completely inaccurate, but seemed to catch fire as a wedge issue for Democrats in the 2012 general election campaign.
On Friday, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempted to tie Rubio’s stance on abortion rights with former Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin, who on the campaign trail in 2012 said that in instances of what he called “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies somehow blocked an unwanted pregnancy.
“Sure, we can laugh at his poor understanding of biology,” Wasserman Schultz said about Akin, who lost that race. “But every Republican running for President still agrees with him about denying a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, ” adding that “Women around the country are watching and disagree with policies that fail to respect our right to make our own decisions. We will be heard, and we will vote.”
Meanwhile, Rubio received plenty of love from the pundits on the Sunday morning shows.
“Who has the best political skills? Right now that’s Marco Rubio,” opined New York Times columnist David Brooks on Meet The Press. “He’s the most talented politician in the field right now. I think we saw it in your interview. You asked him some tough questions. He handled them well.”
“I thought Marco Rubio probably benefited himself the most in this first debate by so many people still don’t know,” added CNN’s Jeff Zelany on Inside Politics. “He was able to introduce himself.”
Whether that renewed media love will translate into a much needed bump in the polls for the Florida Senator will be revealed later this week, when the first public opinion surveys following last week’s debate are published.