NEW ORLEANS, LA — Over the course of the four day National Right to Life Convention (NRLC) in New Orleans this week, a lot of arguments were made by the self-described “pro-life movement” to justify their efforts to take away a woman’s access to an abortion and to place more barriers between a woman and a safe and legal abortion.
Some of the most extreme arguments were made by the presidential candidates who appeared before the convention during a forum Friday morning. While none of the 2016 Republican candidates vying for the White House support a woman’s right to choose, the candidates who spoke to the NRLC found some creative ways to make their arguments stand out from the pack.
Here are five of the most absurd arguments the candidates made about abortion:
The anti-abortion fight is as important as abolition, civil rights and women’s suffrage.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has a 100 percent pro-life voting record in the Senate, according to NRLC, and during his speech Friday, he made a number of appeals to the audience to explain why he’d prioritize the pro-life battle in the White House. After telling the story of how his parents came to the U.S. and worked low-wage jobs to support his family, Rubio told the audience that you can’t live the American Dream if you do not have a life in the first place.
But he took the message to a new level when he compared the pro-life cause to women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery. “Sometimes in contemporary American life, we come to believe that all the great causes are over,” he said. “That the past generations fought all the important battles — abolition, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage. But that’s not true. In fact one of the most important battles is the one that you are engaged in now.”
If you believe in climate change, you should be anti-abortion.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) is both a staunch pro-life candidate and a notorious climate change denier. So in his remarks to the NRLC, Santorum decided to connect the two issues. “This is not a matter of debate,” he said about abortion. “For a group of people who love to talk to you about the science and how the science is settled. We hear this on lot’s of issues — the science is settled on global warming, right? Yet on the most fundamental issue of science, life … they refuse to accept science.”
He then told the audience that the science is settled on the fact that every child, at the moment of conception, is living and “completely human.”
Santorum has previously used the same reasoning to argue that every fertilized egg should have full rights guaranteed under the Constitution. But the medical community has long been in agreement that fertilization does not mark the beginning of pregnancy — nor is there any actual scientific moment when life is agreed to begin.
The anti-choice movement can only stop “one woman at a time.”
Former Tex. Gov. Rick Perry told the NRLC audience that “no candidate has done more to protect life of the unborn than I have, and that’s a fact.” As governor, Perry signed a parental consent law, a sonogram law and a 20-week abortion ban, among other restrictions. So Perry should know the power that anti-choice politicians and lawmakers can have in restricting millions of women’s access to an abortion. Yet he told the NRLC on Friday that “as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, the only way to stop abortion is one pregnancy at a time, one woman at a time, one heart at a time.”
In fact, National Right to Life’s strategy is to chip away at women’s rights through legislation both on the state and national level. Over the past several years, more than a dozen states have moved to enact 20-week “fetal pain” measures and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation this session. The measure is expected to be killed in the Senate, but if it were to pass, it would have consequences for thousands of women who rely on late term abortions each year, mostly because of fetal abnormalities or risks to their own health.
The abortion rate is dropping, no thanks to birth control.
Although Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) didn’t attend the NRLC, he spoke to attendees in a video message. “The abortion rate today is at the lowest it’s been since 1973,” he said. “That’s a victory.”
What Cruz failed to mention is the cause of the lower rate of abortions isn’t the advocacy of the anti-choice community but the fact that more women are using birth control. A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute that found a 13 percent decline in the abortion rate between 2008 and 2011 concluded that the rate isn’t declining because fewer women are choosing abortion in favor of giving birth to a child. Rather, it’s because fewer women are getting pregnant in the first place because of expanded access to affordable contraception. But Cruz has opposed birth control, calling it “abortion-inducing” in a recent speech to the Values Voters Summit.
People who “want to kill babies” don’t want women to see their ultrasounds.
Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson spoke in length to the NRLC about his experiences as a physician administering ultrasounds. He talked about the advanced technology of ultrasounds that exists today, saying fewer people have had abortions since the technology has improved and women can see their fetus in detail on a computer screen. “How can anybody think that’s just a mass of cells?” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that the people who want to kill babies don’t want you to see that.”
A recent study found that looking at an ultrasound doesn’t change a women’s decision to have an abortion because the vast majority of women who seek out abortion services have already made up their mind. Nevertheless, 13 states have laws on the book requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound before proceeding with an abortion.