By now, everyone knows that the Zika virus causes severe, devastating birth defects. But if you ask Florida senator Marco Rubio, women infected with the virus should be forced to carry their babies to term.
“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,” Rubio told Politico Saturday. “If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.”
Pregnant women in Florida are anxious about the spreading Zika virus, which has already infected at least 16 people in Miami. Zika causes microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s brain doesn’t develop normally during pregnancy or stops developing after birth, resulting in an abnormally small head size. According to the CDC, babies with microcephaly suffer from a slew of complications ranging from seizures to developmental delays to difficulty feeding. At least two Zika-infected women have already had abortions in the United States to prevent such complications.
It’s hardly surprising that Rubio would want to force women to carry pregnancies to term despite the likelihood of severe birth defects. His views on abortion are extreme for a Republican; unlike some of his party, he doesn’t support abortion in cases of incest and rape.
Rubio is well aware of the lifetime of hardships women who have babies with microcephaly can face: “Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties,” he 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.”
Right now, there are at least 340 Zika-infected pregnant women in the United States, many of whom are anxiously enduring medical tests and screenings to make sure their babies aren’t born with microcephaly. Unfortunately, these women have a 13 percent chance of giving birth to babies with the condition, according to The Washington Post.
Dr. Abdulla al-Khan works at New Jersey’s Hackensack University Medical Center, the hospital that delivered the second baby born with Zika-related microcephaly in the United States. He spoke to ABC News about his fears for both the baby and the mother, given the severe disabilities her child will face: “The damage is already done. You cannot allow the brain to regenerate itself,” he said. “It’s going to impact the mother and her relationships. It will impact her socially and financially.
“You don’t appreciate the magnitude of this problem until you see [an affected infant] and share the pain of what the mother is going through.”