The Santorum Double Standard

With the way the Republican presidential campaign is going, it’s entirely possible that Rick Santorum will have dropped out of the race by the time this article runs. Yet before his third-place finish in the South Carolina primary, Santorum had been making a lot of news for his personal experience with terminating a pregnancy.

In 1996, the then-nineteen weeks pregnant Karen Santorum had undergone surgery to address a fetal kidney malfunction. Following the operation, she developed an infection, and the Santorums had to make the difficult choice of terminating the pregnancy, or risking Karen’s life. By all accounts they made the decision together, and Karen was given medication to induce labor.

Rick Santorum is stridently anti-choice. He has signed the Personhood Pledge; he opposes Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that legalized birth control. Santorum considers late-term abortion procedures “medically unnecessary,” and opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape; incest; if the fetus has no chance of surviving to full-term; and if a woman’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.  

Such unapologetic hypocrisy is breathtaking. Santorum would deny other women – and their husbands, and children – the same options that his own family benefited from, and apparently he sees nothing wrong with this extreme double standard. Anti-choicers are pretty good and twisting logic and facts to suit their needs, but the mental contortions needed to get from “terminating a pregnancy is always wrong” to “except when it’s my family” are truly dizzying.

There’s been some additional controversy around this story, among those that think the Santorums’ experience was a personal tragedy that should not be brought up in a political environment. Normally I’d agree, except that Rick Santorum has shown over and over that he has absolutely no problem deciding what choices other people should be allowed to make. If he’s going to hold such a harsh microscope up to the behaviors and actions of perfect strangers, it seems only fair to call attention to this particular bit of dangerous hypocrisy.

About Sarah:
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.

Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing this out, Sarah. I’ve been happily ignoring the Republican primaries, so I didn’t know any of these things.

  2. This one is absolutely mind-boggling, especially since in the accounts I’ve read, Santorum’s wife was initially opposed to the procedure and only came to terms with it in retrospect, because of the (already born) children who would have been motherless otherwise.

    I truly do find the hypocrisy appalling, but not surprising. I suppose when you believe in absolutes it’s easy to ignore what you don’t want to believe. I would never go so far as to say that an unwanted pregnancy is categorically different from a wanted pregnancy–but then again it is, at least in the mind of the pregnant person–who frankly, is a pretty damn important person in this equation. Feelings don’t make something true, but they do have their own logic and they do color the way we perceive the world around us.

    I cringed a little when Eugene Robinson said it was creepy (or whatever the exact wording was) for the Santorums to take home their stillborn baby (to them it was a baby, so I’ll give them that)–because to them, this was a death to be grieved. I just don’t think it’s fair for them to insist that everyone else should feel exactly as they do!

    • Jodi, I cringed too about that part of the story. But you’re right, it was their choice to do that – which makes it all the more infuriating that Santorum doesn’t seem to respect anyone else’s choice when it comes to reproductive options.

  3. There is a fine difference between an abortion and inducing labor. The Santorums were prepared to take care of this preemie if he had lived. They left the decision up to God.

  4. K. Bronicki says:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/01/06/karen_santorum_did_not_have_an_abortion/singleton/
    So, she didn’t have an abortion,but rather the fetus aborted.
    “The physician I spoke to strongly disputed that characterization of what was at stake. ‘She did not have an induction of labor,’ the doctor said. ‘She was in spontaneous labor because of the severe infection. The use of antibiotics in no way augments labor nor does it initiate contractions in any way, shape or form.’”

    BUT, “Rick Santorum did tell the Inquirer that ‘if that had to be the call, we would have induced labor if we had to,’ under the understanding that the fetus was going to die anyway and intervening would save Karen’s life. And it is accurate to say that the direct experience of a life-threatening pregnancy and a tragic loss did not leave Rick Santorum with any empathy for women who do have to make those difficult decisions in extremely murky circumstances.”

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