Fox moderator Megyn Kelly seemed to have a pretty good way to put the screws to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Thursday night's Republican primary debate.
Update: Coverage of CNN's Republican debate.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, recently said that it's "preposterous" to provide exceptions to anti-abortion laws in cases of rape and incest. Rubio, who is Roman Catholic, has supported anti-abortion legislation that includes those exceptions, as well as one to preserve the life of the mother.
"If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently through no fault of the baby?" Kelly asked.
Rubio pushed back.
"Well, Megyn, first of all, I'm not sure that that's a correct assessment of my record," he said.
"You don't favor a rape and incest exemption?" she shot back.
"I have never said that, and I have never advocated that," Rubio said. He went on to say that he believes abortion is unconstitutional.
It's true that Rubio has co-sponsored legislation including those exceptions. The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" in each of the last few Congresses and the PROTECT Act in the 113th Congress are among the bills he's backed.
But that doesn't mean that Rubio would only back legislation with the exceptions. It's a tough call for many Republicans because there's a political cost to making it harder for women who are victims of rape or incest — or those who could have their own health jeopardized by a pregnancy — to have abortions. Rubio says he wants to restrict abortion as much as he can. So while he supports bills with the exceptions, it's because he's trying to limit abortion, according to Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant.
"Marco has sponsored pro-life legislation with and without exceptions because they enhance protections for innocent life," Conant wrote in an email to Vox.
Interestingly, in this case both Rubio and Democrats want to make clear that Rubio doesn't support the rape and incest exceptions, which have long been the standard in bills seeking to restrict abortion. Democratic National Committee spokesperson Holly Shulman tweeted as much Thursday night.
@jonallendc Tonight he was very clear about no exceptions.— Holly! Shulman (@HollyShulman) August 7, 2015