Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rick Santorum, It Takes a Family 9

In my latest reading of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Rick Santorum talked about abortion.  Sub-topics included: How he arrived at his pro-life stance; how he did not focus on abortion in his congressional and Senatorial races (in areas that had a lot of Democrats) but felt compelled to take a public stand in the partial-birth abortion debate; how his wife had a baby with severe defects (the sorts of babies who are often casualties of partial-birth abortion) and loved that baby during the baby's brief life; and how Santorum gave a hundred minute speech against partial-birth abortion in a last-ditched attempt to gather votes to override President Bill Clinton's veto, and, while he failed to get the votes, he did dissuade a lady watching him on C-Span from having an abortion.  There was more to my reading, but those were some of my favorite passages.

Santorum makes an excellent point on pages 262-263, but my question is whether his statement there is at odds with other things he has said.  Santorum states: "I know that for so many women this is the most painful decision in their lives: but the family, the churches, community organizations, and even the government have to be there to help.  Not just during the pregnancy and after the baby is born, but before.  I have introduced a bill to provide government grants for organizations that provide everything from prenatal care to diapers and baby clothes.  If abortion proponents are interested in 'choice,' they should join us in helping poor women afford the choice to have a baby."

But how does this jive with Santorum's criticism of the welfare system (which serves many low-income single mothers), and his statement during his Presidential campaign that health insurance should not be required to cover prenatal tests, which he thinks will encourage abortions because parents could abort their kid when they learn that he has defects?  Prenatal tests could do that, but they could also be an essential part of prenatal care.

Moreover, Santorum talks about how there are babies with birth defects who survive through medical care, against those who argue that partial-birth abortion may be necessary on account of such babies.  Santorum makes a valuable point, but that kind of medical care probably costs a lot, especially in America's health care system.  Health care reform should be part of a pro-life policy.

One area in which I was disappointed in Santorum's discussion about abortion is that he did not talk much about cases in which having a child can take a serious toll on the physical health of the mother.  He mentions that particular argument, so he is aware of it, but (at least in my latest reading) he does not engage it.  I think that this aspect of the debate is important, for one reason that Bill Clinton had issues with banning partial-birth abortion was that he did not feel that the bill in question contained a sufficient exception for the health of the mother.  I recall reading a reference Clinton made to mothers becoming crippled on account of childbirth.

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