Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) said on Saturday that pregnant women who are infected with the Zika virus -- which is believed to cause severe and debilitating birth defects like microcephaly -- should not be allowed to terminate their pregnancies.
In an interview with Politico's Mike Caputo, Rubio said, "I understand a lot of people disagree with my view -- but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one. But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life."
Microcephaly involves severe deformities of the brain and skull and babies born with the condition begin their lives critically ill. Their care can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in the first year of life alone.
"Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties," Rubio told Politico. "So I get it. I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m pro-life. And I’m strongly pro-life. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life."
Rubio said last year that he also opposes abortion access for women who have been the victims of rape or incest.
CBS said in June that while some individuals born with microcephaly can live somewhat normal lives, most are severely disabled. Many pass away at a very young age, but those who do not can require constant care for the rest of their lives.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)'s Director Dr. Thomas Frieden estimated that the total lifetime medical costs for each microcephalic individual ranges from $1 million to $10 million or more.
The first reports of Zika associated microcephaly came from Brazil and scientists quickly raised the alarm that it could spread throughout the tropics and to the United States. In June the CDC and the Obama administration attempted to pass a bill allocating funding to fight and research the disease, but Republicans blocked it.
Currently, Florida has recorded 15 cases of locally transmitted Zika infections. On Thursday, Pres. Barack Obama scalded legislators who blocked funding, saying, "As our public health experts have been warning for some time, we are now seeing the first locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus by mosquitoes in the continental United States. This was predicted and predictable.”
"Not only did the Republican-led Congress not pass our request, they worked to cut it. Then they left for summer recess without passing any new funds for Zika," Obama said.
“The situation is getting critical,” he warned. “So this is not the time for politics.”