Prominent Republican Marco Rubio: Women infected with Zika virus should be refused abortion
Florida senator says all human life is worthy of protection, as governor insists state is safe
Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who dropped out of the Republican race for the White House in March, has said he does not believe pregnant women infected with the Zika virus should be allowed to have abortions – despite the risk of their babies being born with microcephaly.
"I understand a lot of people disagree with my view – but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws," he told Politico.
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."
The virus has begun spreading via mosquitoes in the state of Florida, where 16 people are now believe to have caught the disease locally.
A square mile of Miami has been declared a no-go zone for pregnant women to protect developing fetuses.
Until now, the biggest risk to Americans has been catching the disease overseas.
The virus causes only minor symptoms in adults but has been linked to birth defects in babies, including microcephaly – abnormally small heads – which can cause seizures and developmental delays.
Mr Rubio added: "Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties. So I get it.
I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m prolife. 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."
The Florida outbreak has sparked a huge public health response, as local workers try to eradicate the mosquito responsible.
Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9bn of funding to help tackle the problem but it has been blocked in the Senate. House Republicans added several unrelated provisions to the bill, including a measure to defund Planned Parenthood, the women's health provider.
The Florida outbreak has sent local officials into damage control mode, as they try to protect the state's lucrative tourism industry.
Rick Scott, the governor, toured the Zika hot zone of Wynwood and insisted: "We have a safe state."
Independent News Service