Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Sunday suggested that women who become pregnant through rape or incest should not have the right to abortions.
In an interview on Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd noted that Cotton's state of Arkansas and several others are passing draconian restrictions that effectively outlaw abortions in many cases.
"When do you think the fetus has constitutional rights?" Todd asked.
Cotton declined to directly answer the question although he is on record voting for a bill that would force judges to treat fetuses like people.
"When does a fetus have constitutional rights in your mind?" Todd asked again.
"Chuck, what I want to find in this debate is area where we can agree on what we should do if a civil society," Cotton replied. "If a baby can survive outside of its mother’s womb in a NICU as the amazing doctors are able to do at 22, 20 weeks, then we should protect that life."
Todd pressed Cotton about why he has not supported an anti-abortion bill that protect a woman's right to have the procedure if she is the victim of rape or incest.
"I personally believe that life does begin at conception," Cotton insisted. "That’s the standard that most Republicans who have held the presidency in modern times held as well. They understand there are certain tragic cases like rape or incest or when a mother’s life is in danger that we ought to an account for. That was the position that Ronald Reagan has as well."
"But I personally believe life begins at conception," he added. "As long as we have unelected judges making rules, we should find ways that we can protect the most innocent lives."
"If you believe that life begins at conception then how do you justify an exception for rape and incest?" Todd wondered.
"Because we live in a democratic society," Cotton said, suggesting that other politicians would fight for exceptions to rape and incest. "I recognize not everyone shares my views... I say that one of the major problems of having unelected judges make these kind of decisions, we don’t have the ability to have those democratic debates."