A lot of media outlets are pouncing on Senator Rubio for suggesting in last night’s debate that he has never “advocated” for exceptions to pro-life legislation in the cases of rape and incest, when he has strongly supported bills that include those exceptions. FactCheck.org is on the case: “Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he had never advocated an exception to abortion bans for victims of rape or incest, but he cosponsored a bill in 2013 that contained just such exceptions.”
This is a stupid line of attack, and Rubio dealt with it easily in an exchange with Chris Cuomo on CNN this morning (starts near the four-minute mark). Rubio’s view appears to be that as an ideal matter there should be no exceptions for rape and incest, because all lives however conceived are worth protecting, but that he will work to provide the maximum feasible legal protection.
As he put it to Cuomo: “Think about it this way: I’m in favor of a 20-week abortion ban. Does that mean I’m in favor of abortions at 19 weeks? No. Any bill that reduces the number of abortions is a bill that I’m going to support. . . . I never said that I will only support a bill that has an exception in it. But I will support bills that have exceptions in it because they prevent abortions. I am here to try to save as many of those unborn children’s lives as possible.” Rubio also noted that the Catholic bishops have supported a lot of pro-life legislation that includes such exceptions for the same reasons he does, a point worth bearing in mind because the debate question had begun by noting Cardinal Dolan’s opposition to rape exceptions. In this exchange Rubio, though famously deft on tv, seems baffled by Cuomo’s inability to comprehend a simple point; perhaps the senator has not watched enough of his show. (Vox, I should note, got it right.)
Being against rape and incest exceptions, even as a theoretical matter, would be likely to hurt Rubio in the general election if he were the nominee. Exceptions have very strong majority support. And I’m not sure, given how extremely theoretical a matter this is, that Republican candidates ought to be talking about it. But there’s no inconsistency between Rubio’s stated position and his record.