Rick Santorum is one dangerously confused denialist. The former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential aspirant is best known for his inability to associate his professed compassion for life at the level of the zygote, with the physical realities of human sexuality. He has equated loving same-sex relationships to bestiality. He is opposed to abortion under any circumstance. Almost.
In October, 1996, his wife Karen had a second trimester abortion. They don’t like to describe it that way. In his 2004 interview with Terry Gross, Santorum characterizes the fetus, who must be treated as an autonomous person, as a practically a gunslinging threat, whom the mother must murder in self-defense. Karen has had to justify her decision to save her own life by explaining that if she died her other children would have lost a mother.
Republican extremists in Congress and the statehouses propose to make abortion illegal even if it would save the mother’s life. Even the Santorums admit they would make that choice, while claiming that they didn’t.
Losing a pregnancy because of a fatal fetal anomaly is never cause for celebration. The pain of second-trimester abortions is compounded by the hateful hypocrites who vilify families facing sorrowful circumstances, and the resulting scarcity of abortion clinicians.
It is revolting that Rick and Karen Santorum choose to stigmatize and harass those of us who, as they did, grieve over the loss of a possible child in the second trimester.
Abortion should not be driving U.S. policy. It’s not a more fundamental right than the right to a job or safety from violence. But we can’t stop it from being used as a wedge issue if we never talk about our experiences.
Here’s the Santorums’ description of their second trimester abortion, written by Steve Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 4, 1997
Karen was in her 19th week of pregnancy. Husband and wife were in a suburban Virginia office for a routine sonogram when a radiologist told them that the fetus Karen was carrying had a fatal defect and was going to die.
After consulting with specialists, who offered several options including abortion, the Santorums decided on long-shot intrauterine surgery to correct an obstruction of the urinary tract called posterior urethral valve syndrome.
A few days later, rare “bladder shunt” surgery was performed at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. The incision in the womb carried a high risk of infection.
Two days later, at home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Verona, Karen Santorum became feverish. Her Philadelphia doctors instructed her to hurry to Pittsburgh’s Magee-Women’s Hospital, which has a unit specializing in high-risk pregnancies.
<strong>After examining Karen, who was nearly incoherent with a 105-degree fever, a doctor at Magee led Santorum into the hallway outside her room and said that she had an intrauterine infection and some type of medical intervention was necessary. Unless the source of the infection, the fetus, was removed from Karen’s body, she would likely die.
At minimum, the doctor said, Karen had to be given antibiotics intravenously or she might go into septic shock and die.
The Santorums were at a crossroads.
Once they agreed to use antibiotics, they believed they were committing to delivery of the fetus, which they knew would most likely not survive outside the womb.</strong>
“The doctors said they were talking about a matter of hours or a day or two before risking sepsis and both of them might die,” Santorum said. “Obviously, if it was a choice of whether both Karen and the child are going to die or just the child is going to die, I mean it’s a pretty easy call.”
Shivering under heated blankets in Magee’s labor and delivery unit as her body tried to reject the source of the infection, Karen felt cramping from early labor.
Santorum agreed to start his wife on intravenous antibiotics “to buy her some time,” he said.
The antibiotics brought Karen’s fever down. The doctor suggested a drug to accelerate her labor.
“The cramps were labor, and she was going to get into more active labor,” Santorum said. “Karen said, `We’re not inducing labor, that’s an abortion. No way. That isn’t going to happen. I don’t care what happens.’ ”
As her fever subsided, Karen – a former neonatal intensive-care nurse – asked for something to stop the labor. Her doctors refused, Santorum recalled, citing malpractice concerns.
Santorum said her labor proceeded without having to induce an abortion.
Karen, a soft-spoken red-haired 37-year-old, said that “ultimately” she would have agreed to intervention for the sake of her other children.
“If the physician came to me and said if we don’t deliver your baby in one hour you will be dead, yeah, I would have to do it,” she said. “But for me, it was at the very end. I would never make a decision like that until all other means had been thoroughly exhausted.”
The fetus was delivered at 20 weeks, at least a month shy of what most doctors consider viability.
In the months after the birth and death of Gabriel Michael Santorum, rumors began circulating in the Pennsylvania medical community that Karen Santorum had undergone an abortion. Those rumors found their way to The Inquirer, prompting the questions that led to this article.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t big fans of Rick Santorum,” the senator said of the rumors. “You’re a public figure, and you’re out there. Maybe it accomplishes a political purpose”…
http://www.slate.com/id/1210/ The New Yorker, Jan. 5, 1998
An article chronicles the troubled pregnancy of Karen Santorum, wife of partial-birth-abortion foe Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and the evolution of the senator’s views on the procedure. A birth defect threatened the lives of both fetus and mother, forcing the couple to face the ethical question of whether or not to abort to save her life. Premature labor made the quandary moot–the baby died two hours after birth–but stiffened their resolve against late-term abortion. (A “Strange Bedfellow” bashes Santorum’s “pathetic grandstanding.”)
Audio Interview: Santorum defends the GOP Platform on Reproductive Rights
Terry Gross, Fresh Air Aug 30, 2004 (20 min.)
Human Life amendment to the constitution,
Why judges opposed to Roe are not activists,
That embryos from fertility clinics should be adopted,
The Catholic mass and viewing with his children at home of his son, Gabriel, who was born 4 months premature and lived for 2 hours .
Listen to entire interview.
Activists urged to call Family Circle on abortion article
Family Circle magazine featured an anti-abortion article in the “Full Circle” section of their October 1997 issue. The article, written by Karen Santorum, decried the use of late-term abortion under any circumstances. And it told the story of her own tragic pregnancy and the decision she and her family made – an option she and her husband would deny to other women .
Karen Santorum is the wife of right-wing, anti-abortion Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). In 1996, Senator Santorum led the debate on a bill that attempted to ban late-term abortions, and refused to make an exception even in the case of “grievous bodily injury” to the woman. In Santorum’s article, she expresses her view that carrying a non-viable fetus to term is the only option, and apparently does not think the woman’s health or future fertility should be a consideration.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) responded by requesting that a patient response be printed in the next issue, thus presenting an opposing view and bringing the argument “Full Circle.” We have learned from NAF that Family Circle is only planning to publish “Letters to the Editor,” and your actions could change their decision. Please urge Family Circle to print the article by Sophie Horak, which was submitted to them by NAF, in its entirety. We do not have permission to send you the text of the original article.
We urge you to email Family Circle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212-499-2000) and express concern over their incomplete (and in this case, biased) reporting on the very private issue of abortion.
Send letters to:
Family Circle Magazine
Karen Santorum’s letter to ill-fated son express joy, sorrow
Tuesday, June 23, 1998
By Karen MacPherson
Father First, Senator Second
For Rick Santorum, Politics Could Hardly Get More Personal
By Mark Leibovich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page C01
In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.
Upon their son’s death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen’s parents’ home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.
“That’s my little guy,” Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father’s hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly.
He and Karen brought Gabriel’s body home so their children could “absorb and understand that they had a brother,” Santorum says. “We wanted them to see that he was real,” not an abstraction, he says. Not a “fetus,” either, as Rick and Karen were appalled to see him described — “a 20-week-old fetus” — on a hospital form. They changed the form to read “20-week-old baby.”
Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, “Letters to Gabriel,” a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel’s premature delivery. At one point, her doctor raised the prospect of an abortion, an “option” Karen ridicules. “Letters to Gabriel” also derides “pro-abortion activists” and decries the “infanticide” of “partial-birth abortion,” the legality of which Rick Santorum was then debating in the Senate. The book reads, in places, like a call to action.
“When the partial-birth abortion vote comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third time,” Karen writes to Gabriel, “your daddy needs to proclaim God’s message for life with even more strength and devotion to the cause.”
The issue came up again the following spring. Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, appeared on the Senate floor with oversize illustrations of fetuses in various stages of delivery. He described the process by which a physician “brutally kills” a child “by thrusting a pair of scissors into the back of its skull and suctioning its brains out.” He asked that a 5-year-old girl be admitted to the visitors’ gallery, though Senate rules forbid children under 6. “She is very interested in the subject,” Santorum said, explaining that the girl’s mother had been a candidate for a late-term abortion when doctors advised her during her pregnancy that the child was unlikely to survive.
Sen. Barbara Boxer objected, saying it would be “rather exploitive to have a child present in the gallery” during such a debate. Santorum relented, bemoaning Boxer’s objection as proof that “we have coarsened the comity of this place.”
The same has been said of Santorum. In so many words, or facial gestures….