the national interest

What Marco Rubio Doesn’t Want You to Know About His Abortion Position

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa
Marco Rubio: Abortions for none, gigantic American flags for all! Photo: BRIAN FRANK/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Marco Rubio opposes the legal right to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. This extreme position would pose a significant liability in a general election. But since Rubio still has to win the nomination, he can’t wriggle out of it yet. Instead he is obfuscating. Rubio’s explanation of his position to Evan Osnos left Osnos scratching his head:

When I asked Rubio about it, he said, somewhat confusingly, “Look, I personally believe that all life is worthy of protection, and therefore I don’t ever require, nor have I ever advocated, that I won’t support a law unless it has exceptions.” After some more twists and turns, I sensed that we had reached the line he plans to use in a general election: “My goal is to save as many lives as possible, and I’ll support anything that does that. Even if it has exceptions.”

Here’s what Rubio is up to. Rubio wants to restrict access to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He doesn’t want to say that, though. So instead he is changing the question to “Would you support a bill to restrict abortion that did not contain exceptions?” And yes, Rubio says, he would. But that does not mean he wouldn’t also support a bill that restricted abortion with exceptions.

Here is an analogy. Suppose Rubio wants to eliminate all income taxes. (This is a hypothetical, but it is not that far from reality.) If you ask Rubio if he’d sign a bill that cuts income taxes in half, he’d say yes — the fewer taxes, the better. He’d ideally eliminate all income taxes but would settle for cutting them.

That’s what he’s saying on abortion. He favors the no-exception bans — “as many lives as possible” — but he’s turning the question toward his willingness to sign less extreme measures (“even if it has exceptions”). He prefers to discuss what he’d be willing to sign and would rather not mention what he would prefer to sign.

Rubio Doesn’t Want You to Know Abortion Position