Rubio takes a chance with his uncompromising stance against abortion

A lot of people expected Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to break out of the pack of Republican presidential candidates this summer, much the way Sen. Barack Obama emerged as the most serious threat to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination eight years ago. That would make him the biggest victim of Donald Trump, who is now sucking up news coverage like a gold-plated Electrolux.

During last week’s debate, Rubio came close to channeling Richard Nixon in his assertion that his humble beginnings would be the perfect weapon against elitist Democrats like Hillary Clinton. “If I’m our nominee,” Rubio said, “how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she…gonna lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago.” Whatever else happens in a Rubio administration, he seemed to be saying, voters could enjoy a bit of class-warfare glee at sending the Kennedys back to Hyannis Port—er, the Clintons back to Chappaqua—in defeat.

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Rubio is also distinguishing himself through his opposition to abortion, using language that is strikingly uncompromising even in the Republican Party (though not more so than several other GOP presidential candidates, including Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee). In the debate, he called for an abortion ban without exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. On Meet the Press a few days later, he did not waffle when pondering a conflict between what he called a woman’s “right to make decisions about her own health and her own future” and “the right of a human being to live.”

He elaborated: “Listen, you’re 15 years old, and you become pregnant, and you’re scared, and you have your whole life ahead of you, and you’re facing this, that is a hard situation. I tell people all the time, don’t pretend this is easy. This is a difficult question. But when asked to make a decision between two very hard circumstances, I’ve personally reached the conclusion that if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.”

This is the kind of tough talk that Trump claims to be famous for, and it could get Rubio a few more volunteers in Iowa, which could lead to a better-than-expected showing there… (But it may not him much in New Hampshire, which is more secular and more culturally liberal even among people who vote in Republican primaries.)

Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum credits Rubio with not “fudging” the issue: “If you support a rape or incest exception, it’s pretty obvious you don't really think of abortion as murder.” Nevertheless, he writes, most voters (even most Republicans) do support exceptions for rape and incest, which makes honesty and moral consistency a pretty big risk for Rubio and several other Republican candidates.

There’s also a danger in seeming to talk past women. The campaign to defund Planned Parenthood, following the revelation of videos in which staffers causally discussed the sale of fetal tissue resulting from abortions, has been notable for squeamishness about the decision-making process on the part of Planned Parenthood’s clients. “Defunding Planned Parenthood is not the same as repealing the right to abortion,” wrote Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, here at America’s website. But a strategy of shutting down abortion providers, either by cutting off their funding or by imposing requirements that make them impractical to operate, can be seen as a way to make any legal right irrelevant—and to ensure that few women have any option but to “choose life.”

Rubio does deserve credit for consistency. But even his Meet the Press answer reflected nervousness about how to address women voters. Take the switch in pronouns:  “Listen, you’re 15 years old, and you become pregnant, and you’re scared… I’ve personally reached the conclusion that if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.” Why not continue in the second person, telling the hypothetical teenager, “You must err on the side of life”?

It’s also a cheat for Rubio to make an example of a 15-year-old girl, since almost everyone agrees that someone of that age is not mature enough to make any important decision without guidance from adults. It would be more illuminating to hear Rubio address the situation of a 40-year-old woman with an unexpected pregnancy, someone who might have to interrupt or end a career because of complications associated with childbirth. For Rubio to say, “I’m going to err on the side of life” in that situation is more provocative, and it carries more political risk, not only in a general election but also in Republican primaries open to independent voters (such as New Hampshire). He could win admirers even among ideological opponents like Kevin Drum for his honesty; unfortunately for Rubio, they won’t be delegates at the Republican convention.

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alan macdonald
2 years 3 months ago
Politicians have conned voters for decades with, "While I personally am opposed to abortion, I think it's a woman's decision". Thus, they avoided personal involvement and dumped it solely on women. It is a women's issue, but more importantly, it is a human rights issue with very broad implications beyond men vs women. Bravo for Senator Rubio for making an unequivocal statement.
John Bosco
2 years 3 months ago
Weight the temporary inconvenience to the mother against the permanent destruction to the child - 9 months versus a lifetime. Then take a position on abortion.
James Jenkins
2 years 3 months ago
Pregnancy is a ["temporary inconvenience"] to you? Really? No sexism in that comment. Something tells me you have never been pregnant.
Ed Gamboa
2 years 3 months ago
Sen. Marco Rubio has the courage to express his convictions. One refreshing and significant change in the political arena. The world needs a courageous leader in the White House. Carly Fiorina would be an excellent VP.
James Jenkins
2 years 3 months ago
I believe in this year's emanation, Rubio considers himself a Catholic. [I just hope when his head stops spinning, he still is facing forward.] Be careful, Marco - you're blind ambition is showing. Catholics really shouldn't voice opinions on abortions until they completely reform their views and teachings on contraception - which has been demonstrated as the single most important factor in eliminating the need for almost all abortions.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago
It is certainly NOT demonstrated that contraception is the single most important factor in eliminating the desire for abortion. Some obvious and direct examples: 1. Contraception is freely available and even mandated/promoted by the governments in India and China and yet there are millions of sex-selection abortions. . See 160 Million and counting http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/opinion/27douthat.html?_r=0 2. 90% of Down syndrome babies are aborted in the great US of A not because the mother didn't want to have a child - but only after the diagnosis is made. Same with many other prenatal conditions. 3. IUDs and some other forms of so-called contraceptives actually cause abortion. Making them more widely available will only cause more abortion. 4. Catholics who adhere to the Church's teaching on contraception are much less likely to have abortions than those who do not. Even for the other cases when abortion is chosen by the not-so-Catholic population, the connection with contraception is more often than not the opposite, because it promotes sex-outside-marriage. To quote Dr. Janet Smith, professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit): "Most abortions are the result of unwanted pregnancies, most unwanted pregnancies are the result of sexual relationships outside of marriage, and most sexual relationships outside of marriage are facilitated by the availability of contraception. To turn this 'progression' around: contraception leads to more extra-marital sexual intercourse, more extra-marital sexual intercourse leads to more unwanted pregnancies; more unwanted pregnancies lead to more abortions." For this and several other reasons, see http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/contraception/articles-and-publications/contraception-and-abortion-the-underlying-link.cfm
James Jenkins
2 years 3 months ago
Relationships between Contraception and Abortion: A Review of the Evidence. Cicely Marston & John Cleland. International Family Planning Perspectives, 29(1), 2003, pp. 6-13. Conclusions: Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago
James – I think you have been fooled by reading just the abstract and not the assumptions in the paper you cite. Bloggers should not just rely on the conclusion paragraph in an abstract, particularly when such a report comes from such a biased source, and certainly not when you are trying to advice the Church to be more scientific. You need to take a closer reading of the authors’ assumptions and understand their methods. Note this biased article is from Planned Parenthood’s international journal (on the pro-abortion Guttmacher site (formerly a part of PP). Here is the link should you or others wish to study it in full https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2900603.html. The authors in fact admit that national statistics show that abortion has risen in several countries (including the USA) with the rise of contraceptive use: “within particular populations, contraceptive prevalence and the incidence of induced abortion can and, indeed, often do rise in parallel.” They think that is confusing because of their insensitive definition of fertility (esp. when trying to justify abortion). In this paper, fertility is defined as the sum of births prevented by contraception and those prevented by abortion. But this definition by force blinds them to even see a correlation between the two. If any sum is fixed, then an increase in one part would require a drop in the other. This is obvious and uninformative. It is like saying the Nazi concentration camps improved cardiac health, since the cardiovascular deaths were remarkably low there, when that was so only because they were killing everyone before they had time to die of natural causes. So, they rule out the connection by using the phrase “where fertility is constant” the connection was not seen. But, fertility is not constant in real life. When one is not intentionally killing the unborn, then it is reasonable to use the definition of number of live births in a population as the biological fertility rate. But, when one is actively killing the unborn, one should not include those intentional killings in determining the rate of biological fertility (barbarity, maybe). The real test for contraception for those concerned with the humanity of the unborn is: do the number of conceived humans go up or down when contraception is introduced into a society. And their own data shows that the number of conceptions and unwanted pregnancies went up in many countries, including the USA, along with the wide adoption of contraception. A contraceptive mentality automatically increases an “unwanted baby” mindset, and more unwanted conceptions. And there is no conceivable way for contraception to save the baby girls from sex-selection abortion, or the Down babies, etc. Furthermore, much of their language is Orwellian (e.g. to accept every child conceived is described as “fatalistic fertility;” it is assumed that without contraception, having a child is “not within the calculus of choice” – as if one has no control of when to have intercourse).
WILLIAM HAYWARD
2 years 3 months ago
Fortunately with Catholic moral teaching behind him, Senator Rubio does not have to worry at all about error with his abortion stance. It is solid and coherent. Worry about error comes when there are two or more legitimate claims. This comes to play with the immigration debates in this country. These are much more difficult moral and political decisions to make when we consider of the integrity of the immigrant family against the desire for national homogeny (?). In this issue would Senator Rubio prefer to err on the side of family integrity (which is the foundation of good society and a foundation of Catholic justice teaching) over policies to deport immigrants, even if this deportation splits families. Err on the side of life? Err on the side of family?
Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago
Is it so amazing that a Catholic politician would agree with the Catholic position on the humanity of the unborn from conception? Of course, the constitution should protect all human beings. To deny this is to a) deny the unborn are human, or 2) to deny that all humans should have human rights (the position of the majority of pro-choice Americans). This belief is perfectly consistent with supporting any laws that only outlaw partial-birth abortion or sex-selection abortion or later trimester abortions. As Rubio correctly says, he will "support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions."
Tim O'Leary
2 years 3 months ago
As to channeling Richard Nixon, surely Hillary Clinton is doing that perfectly - with her secretive suspicious nature, stonewalling, enemy lists and gaps in her email records. http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-milhous-clinton-1433891790. On abortion, contraception and population control - Richard Nixon was much more with today's Democrats than against them. http://www.population-security.org/09-CH1.html
Nicholas Cotroneo
2 years 3 months ago
Senator Rubio did an excellent job - while talking to Chris Cuomo of CNN - of explaining how his pro life views are part of his moral center. It was a very heartfelt discussion and it was refreshing to hear a politician not to apologize for being Catholic. (Cuomo was very eager to distinguish his Catholic faith from his political beliefs). This is not an easy issue and Senator Rubio appeared to be very serious about being a pro-life believer for moral rather than political reasons. He seemed to anguish over the issue. That is a good thing. If nothing else, we need to advance the view that this requires deep thought and reflection. Faith alone cannot make you pro-life.

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