Mostly False
NARAL Pro-Choice America
"Marco Rubio voted against funding health clinics that provide critical care during this public health emergency (Zika)."

NARAL Pro-Choice America on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 in a TV ad

NARAL misleads in attack on Marco Rubio about Zika funding

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion in Zika funding at a press conference in Miami April 8, 2016. (Miami Herald)

As the number of Floridians infected with the Zika virus continues to escalate, political groups and and candidates have lobbed attacks in the U.S. Senate battle in Florida.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, a liberal organization that supports abortion rights, attacked Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s record on Zika in an ad airing on TV in Orlando and West Palm Beach and online.

NARAL endorsed Rubio’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

"The Zika virus is here. It’s dangerous to pregnant women. And it has no cure. But Marco Rubio voted against funding health clinics that provide critical care during this public health emergency," states the narrator while text states that Rubio "voted against contraception and family planning."

The narrator then continues: "And Marco Rubio continues to be against a woman's right to choose an abortion even if they are infected with the Zika virus."

The ad shows video of someone clad in protective gear spraying for mosquitoes and anxious looking women including one who is pregnant. The ad began airing as Congress returned from recess to debate Zika funding again. On Sept. 6, a Senate bill failed to receive the necessary votes to move forward.

We will zero in on Rubio’s votes related to Zika. Rubio’s voting record and public statements about Zika show that he has repeatedly shown support for Zika funding requests, including by President Barack Obama. The ad is referring to Rubio’s votes in favor of Zika legislation that would have cut funding to one organization in Puerto Rico, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood.

Zika bills

In February, Obama requested $1.9 billion for vaccine research, testing and mosquito control related to Zika.

Rubio announced his support for Obama’s request at a press conference in Miami April 8. A timeline from Rubio’s office states he was the first congressional Republican to announce his support. Since that time, Rubio has repeatedly called on his colleagues in floor speeches, media outlets and press conferences to pass a bill.

On May 12, Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla, announced they would introduce legislation to provide the full $1.9 billion request.

"There's no reason every proposal to address Zika cannot be bipartisan and earn broad support, and I'm hopeful we can reach a final outcome that fully addresses the problem," Rubio said at the time.

On May 17, Rubio voted with the majority, 68-29, for a motion on an amendment by  Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to provide $1.1 billion to combat Zika. Rubio reluctantly voted for the compromise measure while still calling for Obama’s full funding request.

Two days later, the Senate passed the full bill 89-8 with Rubio voting with the majority. The bill called for spending $1.1 billion to prevent, prepare and respond to the Zika virus domestically and internationally including on the development of a vaccine.

House and Senate negotiators then got together in a conference committee. Republicans added a clause to block any money for Profamilias, the Puerto Rican branch of Planned Parenthood. The services of that family planning agency are relevant here because Zika can be transmitted through sex, and condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika. Profamilias served 8,000 people in 2015.

Democrats saw that as a "poison pill" intended to doom the bill, while Republicans said Democrats were refusing to compromise.

While the bill would have blocked funding for Profamilias, it would not have blocked funding for Puerto Rico entirely. The ad omits that the bill provided funds that would potentially help clinics and hospitals in nearly every municipality on the island.

Puerto Rico has 20 community health centers operating at 84 sites. Profamilias has seven clinics on the island, and in each area there is another type of facility that would have been eligible for Zika funding.

The ad cites two Rubio votes in June on the appropriations bill that included the $1.1 billion for Zika.

The first vote, on June 14, was a motion to proceed and passed 94-3. So NARAL is attacking Rubio for voting in favor of something that was supported by virtually every senator of both parties.

The second vote was on June 28 when the Senate voted 52-48 to bring up the Zika measure. It failed to reach the 60-vote threshold, so the underlying bill didn’t reach an up or down vote. Rubio voted for the measure.

"Shame on Washington for failing to pass Zika funding," Rubio said after the bill died. "We’ve been on top of this issue for five months, and it’s a failure of both parties in this town, including the president of the United States, that it’s taken this long to even get to this point."

One final note about the ad’s attack on Rubio for opposing abortion, including for women with Zika. Rubio told Politico in August: "I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life."

Our ruling

NARAL’s TV ad said, "Marco Rubio voted against funding health clinics that provide critical care during this public health emergency (Zika)." The text on the screen stated that Rubio "voted against contraception and family planning."

The ad creates a misleading impression that Rubio’s votes show he is indifferent to funding clinics to combat Zika. Actually, he has repeatedly supported Zika funding requests, including $1.9 billion sought by Obama.

The ad cherry-picks votes by zeroing in on Rubio’s votes on measures that would have blocked funding to the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Puerto Rico. The ad doesn’t explain that despite that block, the bill still could have provided money to fight Zika both in Puerto Rico and the United States. Nothing passed due to the gridlock over that issue.

As for the statement about Rubio’s voting record, we rate it Mostly False.