man's right to choose

Marco Rubio Is a Good Reminder That We Need More Women in Politics

Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Two days ago, Florida senator Marco Rubio was interviewed in Politico, and he clarified his stance on abortion in the time of Zika: He’s against it, no matter what.

Rubio is pro life, and that means “all life” for the senator. This position is so extreme that it runs counter to most Americans, who were recently polled at 59 percent support for late-term abortion in the case of Zika, suggesting that even those who normally oppose such procedures believe that Zika is a special case, as it can cause extreme birth defects. Senator Rubio is even at odds with the pope, who suggested that birth control in the case of Zika might be okay — because the possible consequences are so dire that even a man whose guiding principles were codified centuries ago can shrug his shoulders in the case of Zika and say, “Eh, maybe we should try to avoid this.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is Mr. Rubio’s stance, even though he is an elected official whose job is, in part, to carry out the will of his constituents. He is, after all, a fundamentalist on the issue, so the degree of any possible birth defect isn’t going to change anything: He “errs” on the side of life. He even famously supports forcing women who have been raped to carry their babies to term. Yes, he opposes abortion. Period. Got it.

But the history of our nation errs on the side of progress and science, and Mr. Rubio is at odds with both of those things. And, in opening his mouth to tell us his bad opinion one more time, he just made the best argument I can find for having more women elected to office. Because, if the ratio were indeed a bit more even, Mr. Rubio wouldn’t feel so comfortable suggesting that the heartbreaking choice between ushering a child into a life of hardship, pain, and illness or terminating the pregnancy is one that he can make for all women. Especially considering that he will never in a million years be forced to make such a decision, because he is a man.

He would, if his co-workers in our government were more than 20 percent women, be forced to choose his words more carefully. Our behavior changes based on our environments, and Marco Rubio has been working around mostly men for a long time. Either he no longer understands what his words actually mean, or he doesn’t care.

It’s not just that Marco Rubio is at odds with women or with most of the citizens of the United States, or with science. He’s at odds with all of those things simultaneously, and he should feel less emboldened to speak such an extreme position out loud. But he doesn’t, because there is almost no sustained pushback from the voting populace that would make him less likely to say it. If there were more women elected to office, maybe we would have finished debating abortion, especially in dire circumstances such as grave illness or rape, long ago.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Marco Rubio shouldn’t be allowed to hold this opinion. I’m simply suggesting that he should be embarrassed to say it aloud for fear of losing his job.

Marco Rubio Reminds Us Why Politics Needs Women