Meet an anti-abortion rights Senate candidate: Marco Rubio

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Incumbent Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is facing Democratic candidate Rep. Val Demings in the 2022 election.

During an interview broadcast on Sept. 4, Republican Marco Rubio, who has represented Florida in the U.S. Senate since 2010, called the position of his 2022 election opponent, Democratic Rep. Val Demings, "outrageous," claiming falsely that she supports abortion up until birth.  

Rubio told NBC Miami: "People like Val Demings believe abortion should be paid by taxpayers at any time, at any time, including potentially the day that that child is due for delivery. That's an outrageous position, and you have to have that position if you're gonna be endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL the way she is."

Asked by news anchor Jackie Nespral whether he believes there should be any exceptions to abortion bans, Rubio said: "There's a difference between what I think the law is going to be and what I support. I believe innocent human life is worthy of the protection of our laws. But I have voted and would vote for bills that are in the state Legislature that have restrictions because I'm in support of any bill that saves lives."

Demings, the former chief of the Orlando Police Department, serves Florida's 10th Congressional District. She has stated that she supports a woman's or girl's right to an abortion until fetal viability, which is generally considered to be around 24 weeks' gestation.

Demings says that decisions about reproductive health should be made between a woman and her physician. She recently told the Miami Herald, "Yes, we've heard 24 weeks, but a medical professional should be able to help a family who's having to make that tough decision, answer that question." 

Rubio's statements on abortion mirror those of Republican candidates around the country, who, in response to being hammered by Democrats for their extreme positions on the issue, are adjusting their public pronouncements or shifting the emphasis of their campaigns away from reproductive rights.  

Rubio is a seasoned politician, however, and he has a long track record, having been in the U.S. Senate for over a decade and having made numerous statements on abortion. 

In August, Rubio was asked by an interviewer whether he would support a bill banning abortion that contained no exceptions if there were enough votes in Congress to pass it. Rubio responded, "I do not believe that the dignity and worth of a human life is tied to the circumstances of their conception. But I recognize that that is not a majority position, and therefore I've always said I'll support bills that have exceptions."

While Rubio claimed in the interview that there is no constitutional basis for a right to an abortion, when he ran for president in 2015, according to the HuffPost, he claimed during a primary debate that the Constitution gives the president the authority to ban abortion nationwide. 

Business Insider reported in June that during his campaign for the Senate in 2010, Rubio filled out a candidate questionnaire for the National Pro-Life Alliance in which he agreed with all 10 of the group's listed stances, including support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion "except to prevent the death of the mother," a federal prohibition on medication abortion, and the intervention of family members in a person's decision-making on abortion.

In the interview with Nespral, Rubio repeated the right-wing talking point, used without an explanation of her views of abortion rights themselves, that the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with the decision in Roe v. Wade. Nespral asked why Rubio agreed with the court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned Roe; in response, Rubio said:

Because it's nowhere in the Constitution. There's nothing in the Constitution about abortion. That's all the Supreme Court said. ... This is an issue that needs to be decided at the state legislative level, just like anything else. In fact, before she passed away, Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the same argument, in some ways. She argued that had that process been allowed to continue, America would have found closure one way or the other on that issue. And Roe v. Wade sort of stepped in and invented a constitutional right that didn't exist and created 40 years of division over that issue.

Ginsburg felt, as she said in a lecture at the University of Chicago Law School in 2013, that the Roe decision was too sweeping: "My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change. ... Roe isn't really about the woman's choice, is it? It's about the doctor's freedom to practice. … It wasn't woman-centered, it was physician-centered." Ginsburg repeatedly made clear that her criticism of the decision was not opposition to abortion rights, saying at her confirmation hearing in 1993: "You asked me about my thinking about equal protection versus individual autonomy, and my answer to you is it's both. This is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. It's a decision that she must make for herself. And when Government controls that decision for her, she's being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices."  

According to the Washington Post, Rubio has always received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee and a zero from Planned Parenthood Action Fund's congressional scorecard.

Rubio has supported legislation that contains exceptions, but always with the reasoning that any legislation that limits abortion is good legislation. Asked by Fox News' Megyn Kelley in 2015, ""You don't favor a rape and incest exemption?" Rubio responded, "I have never said that, and I have never advocated that." His spokesperson Alex Conant told Vox, "Marco has sponsored pro-life legislation with and without exceptions because they enhance protections for innocent life."

In a campaign ad posted to Twitter on Sept. 7, Demings says: "It's outrageous to mandate what a woman can and can't do with their bodies. Marco Rubio wants to criminalize abortions with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Well, I know something about fighting crime, Sen. Rubio. Rape is a crime. Incest is a crime. Abortion is not." 

A recent Florida poll conducted for AARP found that Demings trails Rubio by only two points, 49-47%. This is well within the 4.4% margin of error. Among likely voters over 50 years old, that lead increases to 51-46%, while among voters ages 18-49 Demings leads 50-47%. 

Not all polls reveal such a tight race, but according to the Miami Herald, political operatives from both parties agree that Demings' apparent popularity is due to her TV and digital advertising campaign, funded by a campaign that's outraising Rubio's in donations. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.