It’s that time in the primary season when GOP candidates attempt to woo evangelical voters any way they can. For Donald Trump, that involves pretending to have read the Bible. For Marco Rubio, it’s establishing a “pro-life advisory board,” stocked with people full of fascinating ideas about science, health, homosexuality, women’s autonomy, and whether Christians are permitted to do yoga.
Rubio told anti-abortion outlet LifeNews earlier this week that he’s established an advisory board to advise him on “key pro-life issues through his presidential campaign and potentially into his presidency.” The next day, just to make it really clear who he’s trying to pander to here, he also told LifeNews that he’d sign a bill to defund Planned Parenthood “immediately,” as well as re-implementing the Mexico City Policy, which refuses to give federal money to any nongovernmental organization that performs or “promotes” abortion when providing health services abroad. (That amounts to a gag rule on even mentioning the existence of abortion, which is part of the reason why President Obama repealed it in 2009.)
The people Rubio has chosen to advise him on the issue of preventing abortion are an interesting crew, many of them with interestingly medieval ideas. They include Helen Alvaré, a law professor at George Mason University who has, as Salon once wrote, “positioned herself as a leader of women who are against contraception.” She has argued repeatedly in all sorts of forums that birth control has led to women’s “immiseration,” including in a wild brief to the Supreme Court, where she argued that contraception contributes to “increased participation in nonmarital sexual relations without any expectation of marriage.” (Which is bad, apparently.) She’s also, as the video above makes clear, against living together before marriage. Noted.
Then there’s Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood worker who now runs And Then There Were None, which tries to encourage people who work at abortion clinics to leave. Johnson is also known for pursuing a years-long failed lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, accusing them of Medicare fraud. She continues to turn up on Fox News and at hearings in her home state of Texas, claiming to have all manner of inside information about PP’s dark misdeeds, despite having quit more than six years ago.
Another brand new Rubio adviser is the interestingly bow-tied Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s best known for arguing that Christians should feel bad about doing yoga and that there’s no way for churches to “affirm” homosexuality. He joins Francis Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University who once endorsed a book drawing a direct parallel between the ideas of Charles Darwin and the ideas of Adolph Hitler.
Yet another expert on women’s health who now has Marco Rubio’s ear is Dr. George O. Wood, the general superintendent for the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal denomination. His main crusade of late has been homosexuality, which he is against: as Right Wing Watch points out, he asked that his name be removed from a pledge to be “civil” with people he disagrees with about same-sex marriage. Which is certainly mighty Christian of him, as is his effort to have an equal rights ordinance repealed in Springfield, Missouri, where he lives: Wood insisted the ordinance was infringing on his religious freedom.
There are a handful of relatively tame folks on Rubio’s anti-abortion party bus, including Ashley McGuire of the Catholic Association, an actual conservative young woman who’s written about her desire to see more anti-abortion laws passed. By and large, though, this is a group of people with an amazingly, impressively, profoundly limited sense of what women have the right to do.
All this is fitting for Marco Rubio, of course, who’s vowed to “limit the number of abortions” in this country if he becomes president, presumably by fulminating about birth control and refusing to be polite to gay people.
But it’s also useful to remember Rubio’s stances on things like abortion, given that he has a very, very real chance of becoming the nominee, by virtue of being less nuts than Donald Trump and less pathetic than Jeb Bush. If he passes out of the insane fire-and-brimstone of the primaries, into the cooler, pretending-to-be-somewhat-moderate waters of the general elections, let’s remember who he’s listening to along the way.
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Rubio speaking in Brookline, N.H., Thursday January 21, 2016. Photo via AP Images