MANCHESTER, N.H. — Several candidates at Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate declared themselves to be pro-life, even the “most pro-life person on the stage,” while also defending their belief in abortion exceptions.
A question was posed by commentator Mary Catherine Ham to Florida Senator Marco about how some believe that Republicans are losing today’s youth because of their position on social issues. She noted, however, that while many youth have expressed support for homosexuality, “young voters have not moved to the left on abortion.”
Rubio replied by stating that he is pro-life and that he believes that life of the child takes precedence over the interests of the mother.
“To me, the issue of life is not a political issue. It’s a human rights issue,” he said. “And it’s a difficult issue because it puts in conflict two competing rights. On the one hand is the right of a woman to choose what to do with her body, which is a real right. And on the other hand, is the right of a unborn human child to live. And they’re in conflict. And as a policy maker, I must choose which one of these sides takes precedence. And I choose to err on the side of life.”
Ham then turned to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and noted that his allies have criticized Rubio for being “too pro-life.” She asked if he stands by the criticism.
“I’m pro-life. I’m the most pro-life person on this stage because I acted on it for eight years,” Bush said, touting that he had banned partial birth abortion while in office and enacted greater regulations on abortion clinics.
However, he sought to note that he believes in exceptions and asserted that there are concerns over those who don’t make allowances.
“I’m pro-life, but I believe there should be exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger,” Bush explained. “That belief, and my consistency on this makes me, I think, poised to be in the right place of the sweet spot for the Republican nominee. … I think that we have to be cognizant of the fact there’s a lot of people that are concerned about having a pro-life position without any exceptions.”
Rubio then jumped in to clarify that he does support the exception of the life of the mother.
“I do support the exception of the life of the mother because I’m pro-life,” he said. “I just believe deeply that all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws.”
“If I’m president and there’s a bill that’s passed that saves lives but it has exceptions, I’ll sign it,” Rubio explained. “But I do believe deeply that all human life is worthy of the protection of laws. I’ve already said, for me, the issue of life is not a political issue and I want to be frank. I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life.”
Ham then turned to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, noting that he has been criticized by conservatives for attacking Rubio’s stance, which they state is “harmful to the pro-life cause.”
“No, I’ve been pretty helpful to the pro-life cause in one of the most pro-choice states in the Union,” Christie replied, stating that he defunded Planned Parenthood six years ago, and contrasting himself with Hillary Clinton.
However, he proceeded to speak vehemently about why he supports exceptions.
“I believe that if a woman has been raped, that is a birth and a pregnancy that she should be able to terminate,” Christie said. “If she is the victim of incest, this is not a woman’s choice. This is a woman being violated.”
“And the fact is that we have always has believed, as has Ronald Reagan, that we have self-defense for women who have been raped and impregnated because of it, or the subject of incest and been impregnated for it,” she said. “That woman should not have to deliver that child if they believe that violation is now an act of self-defense by terminating that pregnancy.”
Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., once stated, “Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery, I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will induce labor or perform a Caesarean section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”