In response to a statement by Florida Senator Marco Rubio about the scientific consensus that life begins at conception, the left has launched an assault on his credibility, most likely to try to undermine a potential presidential bid. But a look at the data shows that Rubio is clearly right, and his detractors are wrong.
Rubio told Sean Hannity on Fox News last Wednesday, “The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity that human life begins at conception. I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of science that human life begins at conception?’”
Opponents are not only attacking Rubio’s understanding of basic embryology. They also attack abortion legislation in general, arguing that the reason for the bills — typically to address the inherent risks of abortion — aren’t real.
First, it is an undisputed fact that a new human life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Every single embryology textbook says the same thing, and has done so for over 100 years. Despite the left’s wishes to the contrary, this isn’t going to change any time soon, precisely because the science is settled.
In response, Rubio’s opponents obfuscate, arguing that scientific facts don’t connote value onto the new life. But that wasn’t Rubio’s point. He was arguing about what science says about when life begins, which is an important fact to have clear when moving on to determine what value we should give this nascent living entity.
Some reports try to shift the topic of conversation away from when life begins to a discussion of pregnancy, which is a separate issue. Abortion activists try to conflate the beginning of a new life with the location of that life – whether or not it has implanted in the womb. Clearly trying to refocus and redirect the conversation away from settled science, the Washington Post goes so far as to claim that “life” is a philosophical question.
Rubio’s opponents also point to the supposed failure of him and pro-life advocates to follow the science when it comes to advocating for legislation that restricts abortion due to the risks to women’s health and safety. However, on this question, the science is also clear. There are over 140 medical studies finding an increased risk of pre-term birth after abortion; 99 finding an increased risk of mental trauma; 33 finding an increased risk of breast cancer.
In regards to Rubio’s co-sponsoring of a ban on abortion after 5 months of pregnancy, there are good medical reasons to do so. A woman seeking an abortion at 20 weeks is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester. At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die. Is this the record abortion advocates want to defend?
It’s a shame that abortion proponents aren’t willing to have a debate on the merits. Instead of engaging on the facts, they resort to muddying the rhetorical waters until it is difficult to see what they believe to be true and what isn’t, creating paper tigers in an attempt to wear out the audience before listeners realize they’ve been snookered.
It is a tendency reflective of a dying movement. If you can’t win an argument with the facts, call your opponent names. Senator Rubio should wear these attacks as a badge of honor.
Dan McConchie is Vice President for Government Affairs at Americans United for Life.