Campaign Fact-Check: Rubio Campaign Claims Opponent Is ‘Distorting’ Senator’s Record on Abortion

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Analysis Politics

Campaign Fact-Check: Rubio Campaign Claims Opponent Is ‘Distorting’ Senator’s Record on Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Rubio made his opposition to abortion rights a cornerstone of his failed run for the Republican nomination this election cycle, so his campaign’s suggestion that an ad highlighting his opposition to abortion rights is wrong seems curious.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) record on abortion has taken the spotlight in his battle to keep his seat in the Senate.

A new ad released by his challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL), highlights the incumbent’s anti-choice position, but Rubio’s campaign is denying that the ad is accurate.

“Patrick Murphy is distorting Marco’s record like he distorted his own résumé,” claimed Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokesperson for Rubio’s campaign, in a statement on the new ad. “Not only does Murphy support using taxpayer money to fund abortions, he also supports late-term abortions. Murphy’s extreme positions on abortion put him out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians.”

Rubio made his opposition to abortion rights a cornerstone of his failed run for the Republican nomination this election cycle. He even created an advisory board of anti-choice leaders and activists to steer his campaign on how to chip away at abortion rights. So his campaign’s suggestion that an ad highlighting his opposition to abortion rights is wrong seems curious.

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“Marco Rubio: Reckless on Choice,” the 30-second ad begins. “Marco Rubio would take away a woman’s right to choose for victims of rape and incest.”

“Worse, Rubio would even take away the right to choose for pregnant women infected with Zika,” it continues, before pushing the pro-choice record of Murphy and his recent endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The ad, which began airing Tuesday, is running statewide in Florida “at a cost of at least $1 million,” according to USA Today.

As the ad claims, Rubio has explained how he personally opposes abortion—even in cases of rape and incest—at length. Though he at one time attempted to dance around the issue, even sidestepping a question about it during a Fox News debate, his Republican rivals repeatedly took him to task over his stance on abortion exceptions during the election, and he eventually made his position clear.

Rubio has said that he would support and sign anti-choice legislation even if it contains exceptions for rape and incest, but he has steadfastly voiced his own opposition to abortion exceptions. Speaking in February during an appearance on ABC’s This Week, he told host George Stephanopoulos that he has supported legislation with exceptions in the past (a claim verified by fact-checking site Politifact), and while he has supported a life endangerment exception, he was still against other exceptions.

“I do require an exception for life of the mother because I’m pro-life,” said Rubio at the time.

“[A]s I’ve said, if they pass a law in Congress that has exceptions, I’ll sign it,” he continued. “The broader point I’ve made, however, is I believe all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws. That’s what I deeply and personally believe. And I’m not going to change my position on something that is so deep in me in order to win an election.”

Though Stephanopoulos asked Rubio what he would say to a rape survivor who needed abortion care, Rubio stuck to his position.

“It’s a terrible situation. I mean, a crisis pregnancy, especially as a result of something as horrifying as that, I’m not telling you it’s easy. I’m not here saying it’s an easy choice. It’s a horrifying thing what you’ve just described,” said Rubio. “I get it, I really do. And that’s why this issue is so difficult. But I believe a human being, an unborn child, has a right to live, irrespective of the circumstances of which they were conceived. And I know that the majority of Americans don’t agree with me on that.”

Rubio provided a similar answer in August 2015 when host Chuck Todd asked him whether he would back measures that contained exceptions for rape, incest, and life endangerment during an appearance on Meet the Press.

“I’ll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions, and there are those that have [such exceptions],” said Rubio, according to transcripts of the appearance. “What I’ve never done is said I require that it must have or not have exceptions.”

The senator went on to claim that while rape is “horrifying,” few people became pregnant in this manner and he “recognize[d] that because of the existence of [the] over-the-counter morning-after” pill, many wouldn’t need an abortion.

“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.” concluded Rubio.

Rubio also spoke on the matter during an August Republican debate hosted by CNN. “I believe all human life irrespective of the circumstances in which it came into being is worthy of the protection of our laws,” he said. “But by the same token, if I have to weigh the two equities here, I’m always going to err on the side of life.”

As Murphy’s ad also claimed, Rubio doesn’t support abortion as an option for pregnant people infected with the Zika virus, which can cause an incurable fetal brain defect called microcephaly and other health conditions. Though Rubio has broken from his party on occasion in his push to secure emergency funding to deal with Zika, he has not tried to extend abortion care to those affected who seek it.

“Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties,” Rubio told Politico in August. “I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m prolife. And I’m strongly prolife. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life.”

It would seem that Murphy’s ad is hardly stretching the truth about Rubio’s stance on abortion ban exceptions, though it does not note some of the nuance to his position. Rubio has suggested he would prefer anti-choice legislation not to contain these exceptions, even if he has said he would sign onto measures that contain them.

As for the Rubio campaign’s claim that “Murphy support[s] using taxpayer money to fund abortions” and later abortions, it is no secret that the congressman has been an advocate for reproductive rights and health.

He has been endorsed by both NARAL Pro-Choice America as well as Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In a statement on the organization’s endorsement of the Senate candidate, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards called Murphy “a fighter for Florida women, pushing for smart policies to ensure access to affordable birth control and safe, legal abortion.”

Murphy co-sponsored the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, or the EACH Woman Act, which would require the federal government “to ensure coverage for abortion care in public health insurance programs including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.” The measure would effectively end the Hyde Amendment, which currently bans the vast majority of federal funding for abortion, and is presumably what Rubio’s campaign meant when it criticized the candidate for supporting taxpayer funding for abortion care.

Murphy also co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation created in response to the onslaught of targeted regulation of abortion providers laws. The measure would prohibit both state and federal law from placing additional restrictions on abortion care and providers that don’t apply to other similar medical services.

Though the legislation would only prohibit creating laws banning abortion “after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating physician, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant woman’s life or health,” anti-choice groups claim the measure “would invalidate nearly all state and federal limitations on abortion.”