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Santorum and the Pro-Choice Woman
Casting light on the abortion debate

Rick Santorum in Hollis, N.H., Jan. 7, 2012.

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Kathryn Jean Lopez

I could begin this column with a quote from a post on the presidential election I saw on Craigslist this week, but it is so vicious — and violent — that I shall spare you. Mercifully, however, despite the savage activism by which the post was inspired, and which it joins, there is some difference this presidential-primary season. And I saw it on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

In a packed barn in Hollis, a Democrat asked Rick Santorum a question about abortion. She was a transplant from Santorum’s own Keystone State, and her pediatrician when she was growing up was Santorum’s future father-in-law. This gave her an immediate connection with the candidate: “We’re a lot alike, and I love that.” But “we’re also very different,” she told the candidate. She had a question about abortion.

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“You want me and maybe others to change our beliefs, our values, our thoughts, and vote for you and the Republican party,” she suggested. “And I respect that. That’s what you should do. I’m not quite sure how to do it. I’m just dramatically involved in being pro-choice, which, to me, means pro-life. And you’re not pro-choice and you are pro-life, so we are both pro-life, but . . . we wouldn’t see it the same way. We don’t define it the same way. But how do you convince me to change?” 

Not for the first time, Santorum admitted that at age 30, “when I decided to run for the Congress, I was sort of an agnostic on the abortion issue.” He “hadn’t really thought about abortion as an issue that much. . . . It wasn’t an issue that I really cared much about. But when I thought about running for office I knew . . . this is an issue people are going to care about.”

Santorum is well known for not being the sort of candidate who answers questions with sound bites — instead, he has been likened to a professor or social-studies teacher by journalists who started paying attention to him after his strong Iowa-caucus showing — and this was no exception.The former senator patiently described sitting down with the woman’s pediatrician, his future father-in-law, before he ran for Congress. Dr. Garver, he said, “walked me through . . . the process,” from “the standpoint of a scientist,” of “how human life begins, and at the moment of conception there is a unique individual, someone with a unique DNA who is alive.”

“From a scientific point of view, there really isn’t an argument as to whether that’s a human life,” Santorum continued, without challenge. “It is. The question is whether that human life is a life that should be protected under the Constitution. That’s the debate. At what point in time does that human being attain rights that protect its life, that protect it from having its life taken. That’s really the issue here.” 



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