Rubio reaffirms opposition to rape and incest exceptions: He backs abortion ban "irrespective of the circumstances"

More than a week after backing down on past support for exceptions, Rubio reiterates hardline stance

Published August 17, 2015 7:57PM (EDT)

  (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP/Carolyn Kaster)

It's an exchange that's sure to be replayed endlessly if Marco Rubio winds up as the Republican Party's 2016 presidential nominee.

During this month's GOP primary debate in Cleveland, co-moderator Megyn Kelly of Fox News asked the Florida senator to explain how, if he believes "life begins at conception," he could support rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans.

Rubio quickly swatted down the notion he'd ever supported such exceptions.

"Well, Megyn, first of all, I'm not sure that that's a correct assessment of my record," he responded.

Kelly sought clarity: "You don't favor a rape and incest exception?"

"I have never said that, and I have never advocated that," Rubio affirmed. As Vox's Jonathan Allen noted, however, Rubio did co-sponsor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the PROTECT Act, both pieces of anti-abortion legislation that included those exceptions.

But Rubio, it appears, is perfectly willing to sign onto legislation that lacks rape and incest exemptions. Appearing on Glenn Beck's radio program Monday, Rubio doubled down on his hard-line stance, calling for a near-total abortion ban.

"I believe a human being is entitled to life, irrespective of the circumstances in which that human being was conceived and so forth," Rubio said. "Now I recognize that other people don't hold that view and in order to save lives in this country, I have supported bills that had to have exceptions in them, and I know a lot of people who are pro-life but support exceptions because they feel it goes too far."

One such "pro-life" figure is current GOP poll leader Donald Trump, who told "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd this weekend that he favored exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother -- a position shared by GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, but one that is to the left of where many elected conservatives (and the GOP platform) now stand.

Though Rubio's ultra-conservative stance is shared by an overwhelming number of Republican officials, inartful defenses of that stance have landed some Republicans in hot water in recent years. In 2012, Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, once seen as one of the most vulnerable Democrats, handily defeated Rep. Todd Akin after he suggested that women's bodies would "shut [a pregnancy] down" if they had experienced "a legitimate rape." That same year, Richard Mourdock, the GOP Senate nominee in Indiana, lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly after calling pregnancies resulting from rape "something that God intended to happen."

Rubio, Akin, and Mourdock are well to the right of public opinion on this issue. Most polls show that upwards of three-quarters of voters back exceptions for rape or when the mother's health is endangered.

Listen to Rubio's comments below, via Right Wing Watch:

By Luke Brinker

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