WASHINGTON – More than 500 people leaped from their chairs to give Sen. Marco Rubio a standing ovation at the 2012 Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala on Wednesday. The freshman Republican senator from Florida was keynote speaker at the SBA List’s 20th anniversary dinner, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., also congressional freshmen, gave rousing speeches.
The Susan B. Anthony List’s primary mission is to help pro-life candidates, especially women, get elected. Twenty years ago, Marjorie Dannenfelser, a wife and mother, began this work from her home while surrounded by her children.
At this year’s gala, the SBA List gave Young Leader Awards to Lindsey Craig, former legislative assistant to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.; Ashley McGuire of Students for Life of America; Laura Wegmenn, a senior and pro-life activist at Hillsdale College; and Elizabeth McClung, founder and director of the Austin Coalition for Life. Ben Gordon accepted an award for his wife, Kortney Blythe Gordon, also of Students for Life of America, who passed away with their unborn child Sophy during a car accident.
Buerkle of Syracuse, N.Y., was presented with the Distinguished Leader Award. The crowd cheered for Buerkle when they learned the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had dubbed her “the poster child of the radical rightwing anti-choice movement.”
Buerkle thanked the Susan B. Anthony List for supporting her first campaign in 2010, even though the New York Times insisted she had a five percent chance of winning.
“Really, the biggest lie when it comes to the abortion issue is that it’s a woman’s rights issue,” she said. “I have NOW [the National Organization for Women] picketing my office. Now I am a mother of six and a grandmother of five. I am the first woman to ever hold this seat in Congress for my district and NOW is picketing my office. So that tells you exactly, exactly what their agenda is. It is all about abortion.”
Mary Katharine Ham, a WMAL radio host and Fox News analyst, emceed the gala and introduced Ayotte as “the kryptonite” because she’s boldly pro-life and won women’s votes 55 to 43 percent in 2010, a striking change from 2008 when Barack Obama won New Hampshire women’s votes 61 to 38 percent.
The crowd cheered for Ayotte when she said, “I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would not be standing here tonight as the only pro-life woman in the United States Senate from the state of New Hampshire without the support of the Susan B. Anthony List. And we’re so blessed to have such a dynamic leader in Marjorie Dannenfelser.”
Ayotte said the audience inspired her and asked for help because “we need more pro-life senators” in order “to fight for what is right in this country.”
She continued, “Marco Rubio is often referred to as a rising star in the Republican Party and certainly has one the highest profiles in the U.S. Senate. But here’s what I want you to know: He has a great sense of humor, he’s down to earth, he’s a wonderful family man, and he’s smart and serious about turning our country around and preserving the American dream.
“I’ve had the privilege and I’ve very much enjoyed working with Marco on the Value Action team to make sure that we protect life, that we protect traditional marriage, and that we protect the values that we all share.”
Applause and cheers erupted when Ayotte said, “Here’s my point: Marco Rubio is the real deal!”
Rubio said he was honored to be serving with new leaders like Ayotte. He framed his next comments “with all due respect” because he noticed that he and Ayotte were significantly younger than the median age of most senators. The crowd laughed when Rubio said one of his older colleagues had said Susan B. Anthony was a friend of his and Rubio was no Susan B. Anthony. He also apologized for coming without speech notes, but his teleprompter broke and “someone else” in Washington was ahead of him at the repair shop.
Rubio said when he first got the Senate, he looked around and asked “How did I get here?” Six months later he looked around and asked, “How did they get here?” All of this led up to Rubio explaining he believes God and his constituents have given him the opportunity to stand up for vulnerable persons such as the unborn, and if he doesn’t he’ll have to answer to God.
Rubio said he was “blown away” by the young leaders awarded at the gala. He said he knows it’s difficult to be pro-life because some who support his fiscal policies tell him to “tone down” his right-to-life efforts.
But Rubio has no intentions of toning down. On Jan. 31, he introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, a bill to repeal a new Obamacare mandate that violates the religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions by forcing them to offer employees insurance coverage for contraceptives, some of which cause abortions.
Rubio said he laughs when pro-lifers are described as “radical” because polls consistently reveal 50 percent of Americans agree with him, and when he digs deeper he sees that polls show 75 percent of Americans want “significant restrictions on abortion.” Still, he said, “you get more pressure, more scorn” from media and politicos for being pro-life.
“Being in politics, being in the Senate, I do 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 throughout our country,” said Rubio.
“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.”
He continued, “The answer ends up defining society. That’s how important the issue is.”
“What I want to do briefly tonight is to encourage you who are involved in this [right-to-life] policy because I know that sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged, especially those in the public arena, you take a beating for being pro-life. … I think sometimes it has a tendency to wear people down.”
Rubio said while people push pro-lifers to focus on the national debt, jobs, the economy and other fiscal challenges, “Well, we can’t do that.”
He said, “This speaks to more than just our politics. It speaks to what we want to do in our life to serve and to glorify our Creator.”
Parsing all the arguments for abortion and the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional decision on Roe v. Wade, he said no right, not even a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, trumps an unborn child’s right to life. He said an increasing number in the public understand this and, “I hope it will continue to show in the political realm.”
“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. An unborn child can’t vote. An unborn child can’t speak,” said Rubio.
In the next breath, he said, “Actually, they can. You speak for them. That’s what you are. In this competition of two competing sets of rights, you are the voice of children that cannot speak for themselves; the lives that may never have a chance to contribute to society and make a difference; the unknown names of millions of children whose contributions to our world will never happen because their right to life was not respected. You vote for them when you vote.”
Rubio said voters represent real people, “countless other children who have yet to be created and whose lives will be challenged.”
He believes that future generations will look back at this era and “condemn us.” He believes they’ll condemn the current culture of death the same way that Americans today condemn bigots for atrocities of the past. Rubio said, “They will look at what happened in this nation since 1973 and they will characterize us as barbaric.”
Rubio concluded by saying “our job is to accelerate the process” of securing the fundamental human right to life, to do it sooner rather than later, and to try to achieve it within our lifetime.