In a move that was tone-deaf even within his own party, Marco Rubio callously argued this weekend that women infected with the Zika virus should be barred from getting an abortion, even if the child will be afflicted with acute microcephaly.
Rubio defended his stance in an interview with Politico, “I understand a lot of people disagree with my view, but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one. If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life,” he went on to say.
Throughout the interview, Rubio continued to double-down on his anti-abortion stance, despite recognizing the health risks of microcephaly, the life-long condition caused by the virus. According the CDC, severe microcephaly can cause seizures, developmental delays, loss of vision and hearing, difficulty eating, and intellectual disability.
Despite expressing his awareness of the risks, Rubio would not budge on his pro-life beliefs. “Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with,” he told Politico. “And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties. So I get it. I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m pro-life. And I’m strongly pro-life. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life.”
The Zika virus is spreading swiftly through Rubio’s native state of Florida, with 900 new cases reported over the last week. Researchers have identified Zika as one of the only known mosquito-borne disease that can cause a birth defect, and emphasize protecting pregnant women as a priority.
Rubio’s comments come in spite of a poll released last week by STAT News and Harvard University suggesting that nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe women infected with Zika virus should have the right to obtain a later-term abortion if the fetus is likely to have a severe birth defect.
The swift rise of the Zika virus in the U.S. is forcing many Americans to reconsider their support for access to late-term abortions. According to the poll, forty-eight percent of Republicans support access to abortion after 24 weeks if the fetus is expected to have a birth defect.