Correction: I botched blog item, but Rick Santorum's still a jerk

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On Friday, I botched a blog post about Rick Santorum, which garnered understandable complaints and even scorn from some readers. I apologize for the confusion. What happened is that I linked the post to the wrong outside source. I linked readers to a satire site that had picked up a story about Santorum and wrote an exaggerated version of it. I meant to, and should have, linked to this 1997 story from the Philadelphia Inquirer, a Pulitzer-winning paper in the McClatchy chain.

The gist of the blog post was, or at least was supposed to be, that former U.S. Sen. Santorum is hypocritical for running for president on a platform that calls for a complete ban on abortions for any reason and in any circumstances. He’s hypocritical, I feel, because in 1997, he and his wife Karen lost a baby in a series of events that, legally at least, appears to have been the equivalent of an abortion. That is, Santorum OK’d the doctor’s suggestion to give his wife antibiotics and then go ahead with delivery of the 20-week-old infected fetus, which his wife’s body was rejecting. Santorum knew that, at 20 weeks, the fetus could not live on its own outside the womb, but his wife’s life was at stake and he made a very reasonable decision to save his wife’s life. As he explained it, “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. 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.”

This is a decision that any thinking parent would make under the circumstances, but — and it’s a big but — Santorum now says that other parents faced with the same situation should not be allowed to abort the fetus. That’s why I maintain he’s a hypocrite. The key dispute in this matter is whether what Karen Santorum went through was an abortion. The couple now say it wasn’t an abortion because Karen’s body had started rejecting the fetus, she went through “birth cramps,” and thus it should be considered a premature delivery. The way the decision was made, however, indicates the couple knew that agreeing to antibiotics meant the fetus would be delivered and would die. Making that decision, knowing the fetus would die, is technically making a choice to abort — which makes Santorum’s current no-abortions-ever stance preposterous.

This blog post isn’t intended as a criticism of the Santorums’ decision, and it is frankly not a comfortable situation to write about, especially considering the couple’s — or any couple’s — right to privacy in such a situation. However, Santorum long ago went public with his "explanation" of the sad event, and now wants to deny other women the right to make the same kind of decision to save the mother’s life. He has even said that aborting a fetus for reasons of the mother’s health is “phony,” showing just how much respect he has for other people’s own privacy and right to make the kind of heart-breaking decision he and his wife made.

Here is a crucial excerpt from the Philadelphia Inquirer story:

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.

Rick Santorum, fighting for your right to do what he thinks you should do.
  • Rick Santorum, fighting for your right to do what he thinks you should do.

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