Thank you for having me. This is such an important issue for me, that I had written out a speech—some of the things I wanted to say to you tonight—and then I lost it.
So I brought my—I re-wrote it in a note here, so you’ll forgive me, I’m a little disjointed. And the teleprompter was broken. We weren’t able to—we sent it to the teleprompter shop but someone else in Washington was apparently in the shop ahead of us [*laughter*]. So, anyway, we’re going to have to wait to get that one back. So I’ll just kind of go off my notes here.
Let me just start by saying how honored I am to be a part of this event tonight, I am really blown away to see so many of you who are involved, who give not just money but time to this extraordinarily important cause. I was really inspired to see the young women who stood on the stage moments ago. Because I understand that in the culture we live in today, it’s difficult to be pro-life. When I was running for office, throughout my career, I’ve been consistently pro-life—throughout my life–and I always laugh that some characterize that as “radical,” even though all the polls show that at least, at a minimum, half of the people in this country agree with me. Other polling indicates that in fact, when you dig deeper, between 70 and 75 percent of Americans really agree with us at the end of the day in terms of seeing significant restrictions on abortions. So that alone indicates the mindset that exists among those who cover politics and make commentary on politics, that somehow being pro-life is a radical position. Being a young person who’s pro-life makes those comments happen even more often, and being a young woman who is pro-life, is perhaps the most—you get perhaps more pressure there, and more scorn, than any other demographic in our country when it comes to that issue. So as we look at these young women who came here tonight, not just pro-life, but working on behalf of life as a fundamental tenet of our society, I’m inspired by that, and I really want to thank them, and everyone else who wasn’t recognized, but who is also part of that movement, and all of you for making it possible for them to do that.
Being in politics, being in the Senate, I give a lot of speeches about a lot of things. Tax policy, the national debt—these are all very important issues. These are important political issues, and policy decisions that confront our country. The issue of life is not a political issue, nor is it a policy issue. It’s a definitional issue. It is a basic, core issue that every society needs to answer, and the answer that it gives on this issue ends up defining what kind of society you have. That’s how important the issue is. And what I wanted to do briefly tonight for a few moments is just encourage all of you who are involved in this cause, because I know that sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged, especially for those who enter the public arena—you take a beating for being pro-life from those who cover politics too often. And I think sometimes it has a tendency to wear people down. Sometimes—listen, when I criticize people, I always include myself—sometimes you feel like, maybe let’s just not touch that issue today, because it divides people, let’s just focus on the 80 percent issues, and the stuff people want you to talk about. And I know I have, and many of you have as well, had people ask: “Why do you have to talk about that? It makes us uncomfortable. Why do you have to speak about this issue, it divides people. Just focus on the economic issues. Focus on the economy, focus on jobs, focus on the national debt. That’s what people want to hear about.” Well, we can’t do that. Because the national debt is important, the economy is important, and it is the central political issue of our time. But this is not a political issue. In fact, this is an issue that, especially for those who enter the public arena and refuse to leave our faith behind, speaks to more than just our politics. It speaks to what we want to do with the opportunity we’ve been given in our life, to serve, and to glorify our Creator. And so that’s what this issue is about, as well.
Let me just say at the outset that there are multiple reasons to be pro-life, not the least of which is that Roe v. Wade is bad Constitutional law, irrespective of how you feel about the issue. It is bad law. It is perhaps the most egregious and devastating example of a court deciding that because the political branch will not deal with an issue it believes is important, it will step in and make a policy decision. The Supreme Court literally created a Constitutional right out of nothing for the purpose of advocating a specific political position. So just on the legal grounds alone there is enough reason to be against Roe v. Wade.
There’s one reason I won’t go into in depth tonight because a) I don’t have to, and b) it’s not why you wanted me to speak. There’s a spiritual aspect to this, which is very real. I think virtually every religion condemns the practice of abortion, recognizes that life is a gift from the Creator, and compels followers to believe that as well, as a basic tenet of faith. So, in the spiritual realm, there are multiple ways to defend this. But what I want to focus on tonight are the pure, logical, public-policy reasons why abortion is bad for America, bad for our society, and bad for our people, and why it — why Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
Now, the argument is that there is a fundamental right to abortion in America. That is the argument that those in the pro-abortion, so-called pro-choice community would make, that there is a fundamental right to abortion. Women in this country have a right to have an abortion. So what’s the source of this right? As you engage people in this conversation—by the way, I’ve never met anyone who’s admitted to me that they’re pro-abortion. They’ll say they’re pro-choice, but almost everyone I’ve ever met has told me they personally disagree with abortion, they just think it should be legal.
But, where does this fundamental right to abortion come from? You engage people that believe in what they call abortion rights, and sometimes here’s what they’ll do: They’ll point to the circumstances of the pregnancy. They’ll say, well it’s an unwanted child. This is a child who’s going to enter life and not be wanted, not be cared for. There are parents who don’t want children, perhaps, but you know there are a lot of unwanted children in the world. There are a lot of unwanted children in the world who are born. We know that they exist in this country, but especially all over the world. That cannot be the justification for this. Because if it were, then that would justify by logic that somehow all those unwanted children as well should be dealt with in a similar manner, and that’s a horrific conclusion. It’s an indefensible position. And so that cannot be the source of this right. And quickly they move on from the argument because it’s absurd and they don’t want to think about it. When they say that to you, that this is an unwanted child, and you say to them, listen, there are a lot of unwanted children born all over this planet—they’re orphaned, they’re born disabled, they’re born to families who can’t afford them—you can’t possibly be saying that those children should also be eliminated. And so they move quickly away from that argument because it makes no sense and it’s indefensible.
The most common argument I hear next, what they quickly pivot to, is the argument of, well, it’s a woman’s body, and a woman has a right to do anything she wants with her body. And let’s recognize right now, there is a fundamental right—there is a right to control your body, you do have a right to your body, there’s no doubt about it. You do have a right to decide what to do with your body and what others can do to it, there’s no doubt about it. But there is another right. And that’s a right to live. And so, when you analyze this issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice in America, what we basically have are two rights which are in conflict with one another: a woman’s right to choose—whatever they mean by that—is directly in conflict with an unborn child’s right to live. And the question for our society is, how do you resolve a conflict like that, when two fundamental rights that everyone recognizes exist, are in conflict with one another?
And so immediately the other side will say, well our right to choose is more important than the right to live. And they’ll say the reason why—the first argument they almost always relate—is because it’s not a person, an embryo is not a person, a fetus is not a person. It’s not a person yet. Well, if it’s not a person, then what is it? Because if you left it alone, that’s the only thing it can become. It can’t develop into a cat! [*laughter*] It has the DNA of a person and it was certainly created by people. And left to nature, it will become a person, naturally. So it is a person. Then they’ll argue, well, okay, maybe it is a person, but it’s not a life. What do you mean, it’s not a life? Well, it’s not a life, because the first argument—the one they love to talk about—is viability. It’s not a life because it cannot sustain itself without the person who has a right to choose—it cannot live outside the womb. That argument first and foremost is already a slippery slope because viability’s a moving target. Viability in 1973 meant something very different than what it means today, medically. Children who were not viable back then are very viable now, and we have no idea what other advances are going to occur over the next few years, so if you build it on that, you’re already on slippery sand.
Then they go on and say, well, they’re not viable without the support of the mother. But that also can’t be a good argument. Because a newborn isn’t viable without the mother either! A one-year-old child, a two-year-old child—leave a two-year-old child by himself. [*laughter*] Leave a six-month-old child by herself; she’s not viable either! Even the day you were born, and for years thereafter—some of you are chuckling because, leave a 19-year-old by him or herself! [*laughter, applause*]. My point is, this viability thing’s not a good argument. Because the truth is that a child who has been born isn’t viable by herself either. Just because they’re not receiving nutrition through an umbilical cord doesn’t mean that they can sustain themselves. And by the way, the third reason the viability thing doesn’t work is because you apply it to the other spectrum of life, and you start to get scary. It starts to get scary. If in fact what we are saying is that human beings are only worthy of protection if they are able to sustain themselves independently of other people, that covers a lot of people in our society. It covers people who are disabled, it covers people who are temporarily incapacitated—it covers a lot of people. And so, there is no compelling argument for why a woman’s right to choose trumps a child’s right to live. There isn’t any.
The fact of the matter is that we as a society, as a nation, from a political realm, have always understood that my rights, as important as they may be, my rights end where other people’s rights begin. Yes, a woman should have a right to choose the kinds of things that happen to her body. But that right is not unlimited. It ends when it begins to interfere with the right of another human being to pursue life, to have a life. And that’s at the core of this issue. That’s really what this issue is about at its heart. And an increasing number of people are understanding that. I think the public polling shows it. And I hope that it will continue to be reflected in our political debate. Because this is an essential issue. Well, let’s ask ourselves, then why, if that’s the case, if this is such a clear-cut argument, if it’s so simple the way I’ve laid it out, and it’s not more complex than this, then why is the law of the land what it is? Why are 50 percent of the people in this country, maybe a little less now, pro-choice? Why do they disagree with the things I’ve just said?
And the answer is, because in this equation, in this battle between the right to choose and the right to live, the only ones who can vote are the ones with the right to choose. The only ones who can participate in the political process are the ones with the right to choose. Unborn children can’t vote; unborn children can’t speak. Actually, they can. You speak for them. That’s what you are. In this competition between two competing sets of rights, you are the voice of children who cannot speak for themselves. Of lives that may never have a chance to contribute to our society and make a difference. Of the unknown names of millions of children whose contributions to our world will never happen because the right to life was not respected. You vote for them when you vote. You participate in the political process for them when you participate. This is who you work for. Real people, no longer with us, who never had the chance to do what you or I did. And just as importantly, you are the voice and the vote of countless other children who have yet to be created, but whose lives will soon be challenged as well.
The truth is, I believe in all my heart that future generations will look back at this era in American history and condemn us. They’ll look at what’s happened here since 1973, and they will characterize this nation as barbaric. At some point, hopefully in our lifetime, but certainly at some point, people will look back at this practice and say, how could that be possible? In the way that we look back at the atrocities of the past, at things that occurred 100, 200, 300 years ago, at institutions that we as a nation have banned and now look at and say, how could people have supported this stuff? How could people have turned a blind eye to these things? How could people have ignored that these things were happening? The way we look at those things in history and condemn them, this era will be condemned for this. I have no doubt about it. Our job is to accelerate the process of getting there, to ensure that sooner rather than later, and God willing, in our lifetime, we can arrive at a consciousness in this nation that this is wrong. That the right to life is a fundamental one that trumps virtually any other right I can imagine. Because without it, none of the other rights matter. There can be no liberty without life. There can’t be a Constitution without life. There can’t be a nation without life. And there can’t be other lives without life. I can’t imagine any other right that we have more fundamental and more important than this one. And so the reason I’m so excited about the young people who are involved in this is because sometimes in contemporary life in America, we come to believe that all the great causes are something lost to history, that past generations fought all the great battles: abolition, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage. That all the great causes have already been fought and won. It’s not true. In fact, maybe one of the most important battles that has ever been fought is the one you’re engaged in now. And so I encourage you to remain involved. Because at the end of the day, our nation can never truly become what it fully was intended to be unless it deals with this issue squarely. America cannot truly fulfill its destiny unless this issue is resolved. It’s that important.
And I know that it’s tough, I know. Especially for young people, I know that it’s tough. When you take this position in public office or public policy, people look at you as an intolerant person. Oh, he’s intolerant. Oh, they’re radicals. Oh, you’re trying to impose your religion on us. I understand the challenges to taking a position on this. But this issue’s so important that it’s different from the others. And this is where my faith comes in, and I hope most of yours as well. You see, I think our life here is important and everything we do here matters. This is now at the personal level, I’m no longer even speaking as a Senator, nor trying to impose what I believe on anybody else, I’m just sharing with you why this issue’s important to me. And I’ll tell you why. Because I’ve felt the same pressures. I’ve had people tell me, gosh, we love your tax policy, we love your fiscal policy, just don’t do the social stuff on us, I don’t want to hear about it. Turns people off, I’ve heard that too. And it gets to you sometimes. And I think, from now and then—probably not the people in this room—people are guilty of saying, let’s just tone that one down. This is not the time for that. And then you realize that, you know, the office that we have is important, but this stuff’s all fleeting. Comes and goes, you’re a Senator today, you won’t be tomorrow; you’re in office today, you lose your next election. But at least my faith teaches that this life will end. You live—you’re lucky, you live 80 years … you’ll still be a Senator [*laughter*], and then you’ll be held to account. Whatever your faith teaches you, they almost all teach the same thing: You will be held to account. At least in my case, I’m going to be asked very squarely, I know this. Look at what I gave you, God will say. I brought your family out of extraordinarily bad circumstances, and gave them opportunities. I gave you the opportunity to do things that your family never had a chance to do. I blessed you with children, who are healthy and vibrant and make a lot of noise. I blessed you with parents who encouraged you to dream, and a wife who supported you in pursuit of those dreams. I opened doors for you that you never thought were possible. When you polled below the margin of error in the first polls they took in your Senate race. When the only people who thought you could win your election all lived in your house. And when most of them were under the age of ten! I gave you the ability to speak to people and influence people. What did you do with it? And what am I going to say? Oh I had really good poll numbers? I got re-elected three times? I raised more money than anybody ever had? I was popular, people loved me; they patted me on the back, they gave me nice introductions? That’s what I’m going to say I did with that? The more you are given, the more that is expected of you.
And that’s not just true for us as people, that’s true for us as a nation. America’s not great because we’re smarter than other people or we work harder than anybody else. There are smart and hardworking people all over the world. America is great because God has blessed America, and America has always honored those blessings by being an example to the world. For 230-some-odd years, there has been nothing more powerful on this planet than the American example. And the way we live our lives, and the principles we have stood for. Others don’t always agree with the things we do, they disagree with our foreign policy, they get frustrated at America. But they admire us. Because when we get involved around the world, almost always it’s behind principles and ideals. And so we are a blessed nation. And we’re not just blessed so we can have. We’re also blessed so we can give. And there’s nothing that America can give this world right now more important than to show that all life, irrespective of the circumstances of its creation, irrespective of the circumstances of its birth, irrespective of the conditions it finds itself in, all life, on a planet where life is increasingly not valued, on a planet where people are summarily discarded, all life is worthy of protection, and all life enjoys God’s love.
We are called to different tasks, whatever they may be. If we stand for these things, if we honor God in these things, He’ll honor us. He’ll bless us. He won’t always give us what we want, but He’ll always give us what we need. And you will know that you lived your life with purpose, and that in all the things you did, you honored the blessings that you had. And if we as a nation do this, well, God will continue to do what He has done for 230-some-odd years, bless us like no other people in all of human history. This is the great cause before us. And I encourage you to stay engaged and involved. If I falter at some point, remind me of the speech tonight. I hope not to. I don’t expect to. And with your help, I won’t. So thank you so much, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
* * * * *
Marco Rubio represents Florida in the United States Senate.This is adapted from an address he gave at the Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala, February 1, 2012, in Washington, D.C.