Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio has taken some grief for standing firm against abortion even in cases of rape, and impressed pro-lifers by articulating his position in a clear, compassionate way that doesn’t play into the “War on Women” narrative.
But while Rubio still deserves credit for not backing down, he appears to be qualifying his position in another way:
I have said repeatedly that I understand how difficult it is, a young 15-year-old girl who finds herself pregnant and she’s scared and she has her whole future ahead of her. And I don’t in any way diminish that and I do believe women have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies. But in the case of a pregnancy there’s a second person involved, and that’s an unborn human being.
So far so good. But then:
And luckily in the 21st century, we have treatments available early on after an incident that can prevent that fertilization from happening. And that’s why I support the morning-after pill being available over the counter and I certainly support them being made available immediately for rape victims.
As we know, the morning-after pill is not an alternative to abortion, but potentially another version of it. Contrary to Rubio’s claim, it doesn’t always “prevent that fertilization from happening,” but can sometimes kill an already-fertilized embryo by blocking his or her implantation:
The manufacturers of all the pills in question have been required by the FDA to affirm that the drugs may block implantation. As such, the official company website for ella states that the drug “may also work by preventing attachment to the uterus.” The website for Plan B One-Step states, “It is possible that Plan B One-Step® may also work by … preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus (womb).” And the website for Next Choice states that the drug “works by preventing … attachment of the egg (implantation) to the uterus (womb)” […]
This is where the NPR and Times stories unravel. Although the abstract of study gives no indication of any significant caveats, if one is willing to purchase access to the full study (at a cost of $31.50) and examine its details, vital information is revealed. The study found that at least two thirds of the 87 women who had not yet ovulated before taking the drug actually ovulated within five days of taking the drug. This clashes with NPR’s claim that the drug “stops an egg from being released from a woman’s ovary and thus prevents any chance of fertilization and pregnancy.” Likewise, it undermines the Time’s claim that “scientists say the pills work up to five days after sex, primarily stalling an egg’s release until sperm can no longer fertilize it.”
Rubio is not the only GOP contender to embrace so-called emergency contraception; so have Ben Carson and Rand Paul (the two physicians in the race, who should especially know better), while Bobby Jindal supported it in 2003 and hasn’t specified where he stands today, though you may recall he floated an ill-conceived over-the-counter birth control plan in 2012 which left the abortifacient aspect vague (Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich favor the rape exception itself).
Rubio, Carson, Paul, and Jindal may simply be misinformed, in which case their campaigns could really use pro-life advisers more on the ball. Or they could be gambling that this is the price they need to pay to appear more sensitive to rape victims…in which case their judgment needs a serious reality check.
On principle, it doesn’t matter whether a preborn life is killed with a forceps or a pill; an abortion is an abortion. If you accept the premise that children conceived in rape deserve protecting just as much as those conceived consensually, you can’t turn around and abandon them just because enough people agree to pretend a certain method doesn’t kill them.
In fact, widespread ignorance about how morning-after pills work makes it all the more important for leaders to use high-profile platforms like presidential campaigns to educate the public. By contrast, as controversial as rape exceptions are, nobody with a general grasp of abortion doesn’t know that it’s still an abortion even if it’s sought after rape.
And strategically, it doesn’t help these guys anyway. Just consider a sampling of headlines this year:
- “Marco Rubio should scare you: Why his nutty views are no less dangerous than Donald Trump’s” – Gary Legum, Salon
- “Marco Rubio’s Grotesque Vision of Women is an Indictment of Republican Values” – Ben Cohen, Salon
- “Marco Rubio has an astoundingly low opinion of women’s intelligence” – Amanda Marcotte, Raw Story
- “Media Should Remember: Rand Paul Has A Problem With Women’s Health, Not Just Female Journalists” – Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Media Matters
- “Even Republican and Independent Women Have a Serious Problem with Rand Paul” – Sarah Jones, Politics USA
- “Why Ben Carson Should Scare You Even More Than Donald Trump Does” – Josephine Yurcaba, Bustle
- “The most terrifying thing about GOP abortion politics: Jeb Bush is considered a *moderate*” – Heather Digby Parton, Salon
- “GOP Candidates Reveal Their Terrifying Fantasies About Abortion At First Debate” – Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress
- “John Kasich Hides His Extreme Views On Abortion” – John Amato, Crooks and Liars
The lesson: pro-aborts will never give you credit for conceding any ground to them. They will never concede that any compromise short of complete surrender to their entire position is enough to earn your pro-life ideas respectful consideration or your respect for women the benefit of the doubt. In their eyes, the Bushes and Kasichs are no more “reasonable” than Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, or Mike Huckabee.
Remember, we’re talking about the same media whose reaction to video evidence of people dismembering children for parts was to cover it up, the same politicians who make up new reasons on the spot for why drawing the line at aborting after five months is still too extreme even if it has a rape exception, and the same activists who are constantly looking for new ways to expand from protecting their “choices” to stifling everyone else’s. And you expect emergency contraception to placate them?
Even in the middle of a presidential campaign, exercising real leadership and telling the truth about emergency contraception’s abortifacient potential would be the principled thing to do. And if your critics are bent on pushing a narrative that you’re a hardcore anti-choice fanatic no matter what, abandoning a capitulation to convenience you’re not getting anything out of anyway is also the smart thing to do.