Presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said in an interview with an Iowa-based TV station Monday that Planned Parenthood, the women’s-health organization, helps incentivize women to receive abortions.
The group and Republicans have alleged the videos show Planned Parenthood profits off the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses. Planned Parenthood has denied “selling” fetal body parts and says it is acting within the law, only charging researchers enough to cover the costs of maintaining and transporting the fetal body parts.
Rubio, who said it was “unclear” whether the organization was profiting but did call for investigations into the group, argued its practices “pushed” women into receiving more abortions.
“Now what you’ve done is created an industry, now what you’ve done is created an incentive for people to be pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit,” Rubio said.
“Don’t you think that’s a stretch, pushing people into abortions?” the interviewer responded.
“No, absolutely. If you got to these centers, young women are provided very few options, in many places they’re not told anything about, for example, adoption services that may be available to them. The idea that, in essence, you come in and it’s already pre-determined, this is what place this place does. It provides abortions, and we are going to channel you in this direction,” Rubio said.
“And I just think you’ve created an industry now, where you create the situation where very much you’ve created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions but being able to sell that fetal tissue for purposes – these centers – for purposes of making a profit off of it, as you’ve seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.”
Funding for Planned Parenthood has suddenly taken center stage in the 2016 race – and in Washington. An influential group of conservative lawmakers are insisting that any bill to keep the federal government funded also includes stripping of funding for Planned Parenthood. The dispute threatens the second federal government shutdown in the past two years.
Democrats took issue with Rubio’s language in the interview.
“Marco Rubio has absolutely no business lecturing on the way women think, nor should he dictate the ways we make decisions about our health,” Kaylie Hanson, the director of women’s media at the Democratic National Committee, told Business Insider in an email.
“His career has been built on forcing his out of touch agenda on women – and whether it’s saying people ‘look forward’ to having abortions, or opposing abortion exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, it’s clear he simply doesn’t care about or understand women and their needs. If Marco Rubio wants to represent us, he needs to quit dismissing us and the choices we make.”
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a presidential candidate who helped orchestrate the 2013 government shutdown, has pledged to vote against any bill that doesn’t defund the agency.
Rubio has joined the push to defund the organization. But he didn’t wade into a spirited discussion last week during the Republican presidential debate over whether Congress should, as Cruz put it, “stop surrendering” and withhold funding for Planned Parenthood even if it leads to a shutdown.
Critics of the women’s-health agency say that a series of controversial, undercover videos show that Planned Parenthood harvests the tissue of aborted fetuses in order to turn a profit, a claim the organization denies. It says it only seeks reimbursement for preserving and transporting tissue for medical research, which is legal.
There’s some debate over how much of Planned Parenthood’s business involves providing abortions, though the procedure does not account for the majority of its services. Those services include everything from cancer screenings to tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
The federal government does give money to Planned Parenthood, but none goes toward abortion services. However, Republicans argue that any funding for the organization helps it provide abortions.
Rubio’s campaign did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.