Media covering Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's claim that exceptions to abortion restrictions in the case of rape are not necessary because rape victims can take the morning-after pill to avoid abortion should also note that Rubio repeatedly used his U.S. Senate seat to try to limit access to contraception for women.
During the August 9 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Rubio about his statement during Fox News' August 6 Republican presidential candidate primary debate that he does not favor exemptions for rape or incest in laws restricting abortion access.
Claiming that the number of abortions that occur after rape is “very small,” Rubio stated, “Because of the existence of over-the-counter morning-after [pills] not to mention medical treatment that is now available immediately after the assault that should be widely available to victims, we can bring that number down to zero.”
CHUCK TODD: I want to just get this clarification. Will you support legislation that has exceptions, anti-abortion legislation that has exceptions for life of the mother, rape, incest, et cetera?
RUBIO: Yeah, I'll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions. So that means a 20 week abortion ban, at five months, a child, you'll recognize it as a human being in an ultrasound image, and I'll support that. That doesn't, obviously, cover the whole gambit, but it reduces the number of abortions. I'll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions, and there are those that have that exception in it. I've never, what I've never done is said 'I require that it must have or not have exceptions.'
TODD: Why not? Why don't you think there should be a requirement of an exception?
RUBIO: Well a couple points. I think, first of all, the questions that people ask about those two instances are horrifying. A rape is an act of violence; it's a horrifying thing that happens and fortunately the number of abortions in this country that are due to rape are very small, less than one percent of the cases in the world. But they happen, and they're horrifyingly -- and they're tragic, and I recognize that. I also recognize that because of the existence of over-the-counter morning-after [pills] not to mention medical treatment that is now available immediately after the assault that should be widely available to victims, we can bring that number down to zero.
Media should not take Rubio's claim that exceptions for rape in laws restricting abortion access are not necessary due to the existence of over-the-counter emergency contraception at face value. Instead, they should take note of his repeated attempts to allow employers to deny coverage for contraceptives to women by claiming a moral objection in order to put his Meet the Press comment in proper context.
During a 2012 political fight over the scope of Obamacare's contraception mandate -- which requires all insurance plans to cover preventive services including contraception for women -- Rubio co-sponsored The Blunt Amendment, which according to The New York Times would have “let employers and health insurance companies deny coverage for contraceptives and other items they object to on religious or moral grounds.” The amendment was defeated 51 to 48.
Rubio also introduced The Religious Freedom And Restoration Act of 2012, which according to the National Women's Law Center, “would [have] take[n] away the right of millions of women to have any insurance coverage for contraception, based on an employer or health plan's religious or moral beliefs -- whether affiliated or not with any religious entity.” That bill died in committee.
While Rubio said he does not oppose the use of contraception, in 2014 he signed onto an amicus curiae brief in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that “repeatedly equate[ed] contraception and abortion, pointing to emergency contraception and the IUD in particular, which they say can block implantation of a fertilized egg,” according to MSNBC.