Rick Santorum: I Was Pro-Choice Until I Ran For Congress

I believe that this is what you call a flip-flopper:

WASHINGTON — Prior to entering public office, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum was a self-admitted pro-choice Republican unwilling to dabble in the cultural conservative politics that now defines his presidential campaign, a review of old campaign documents and interviews shows.

This past week, the Pennsylvania Republican-turned-GOP primary frontrunner made a number of eyebrow raising statements meant to demonstrate an uncompromising posture on social issues. He’s questioned President Obama’s theology, argued that prenatal testing is a form of eugenics, and stated his opposition for contraception funding.

His campaign has insisted that these are side issues, but when pressed during an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday morning, Santorum’s top spokesman Hogan Gidley exulted in his boss’ consistency on such topics.

“I mean, that’s who he is,” Gidley said. “He doesn’t have to tack to the right on social issues like Mitt Romney because he actually firmly believes those things.”

But Santorum didn’t always have such conviction on social policy. In his first run for office in 1990, his campaign put out an issue statement on abortion that, by today’s standards, would put him among the moderates of the GOP. Abortion, he wrote, requires “a sensitivity to the genuine concerns of both sides.” While “government must be on the side of human life” he recognized that ” it is very difficult to criminalize any activity once a large portion of society comes to see it as a ‘right.'”

In practical terms, this meant opposing funding for agencies “whose family planning efforts have encouraged abortion” and support for “approaches (such as crisis-pregnancy centers) that care for the real needs of both the unborn child and the woman facing an extremely difficult situation.” It also meant that he would not place emphasis on “advocating a Human Life Amendment” and that “abortion in ‘hard cases’ – rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s health – cannot be prohibited by legislation.”

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Santorum has argued that those exceptions should not be granted.

But wait, it gets better:

In a December 1995 Philadelphia Magazine article — which the Huffington Post pulled from Temple University archives — Santorum conceded that he “was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress… But it had never been something I thought about.” Asked why he changed his mind, he said that he “sat down and read the literature. Scientific literature,” only to correct himself and note that religion was a part of it too.

Elsewhere in the piece, an anonymous “prominent Republican active in Planned Parenthood” said that Santorum was identified in 1990 as a pro-choice lawmaker. “No one here had identified him as anti-choice,” the Republican said. More telling was the quote offered by Tom Allen, a Pittsburgh-based OBGYN who had co-founded the city’s first abortion clinic, delivered Santorum’s wife, Karen, and gone on to share an apartment with her.

“When Karen told me she was moving out,” Allen said, “she said, ‘You’d really like Rick. He’s a lot like you. He’s politically active and he’s pro-choice.'”

It’s funny that it’s okay when Rick Santorum changes his mind on an issue like this, but not when Mitt Romney does.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. hln says:

    I believe that technically he’s just flipped. But the flop may come. In younger years I didn’t care much about social issues; now I do and am heavily conservative.

    I suppose he could argue the switch on ground of “I’m mature now” – but politically, yeah, ouch.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, Romney has never changed his core conviction, which is that he ought to be president and will say anything, pretend to believe anything, lie about anything, and pretend to be anyone to accomplish that goal.

  3. I think it’s safe to assume that every politician has as their core conviction that they will say and do whatever is needed to achieve political power.

  4. Gustopher says:

    Santorum has been consistent since the 1990s or so. Romney has been consistent since breakfast.

    Also, I still get a kick out of Mrs. Santorum’s previous relationship with the doctor who delivered her. It’s just weird and funny.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Oh, I think Romney operates at a whole new level. I can’t think of a more fraudulent presidential candidate in my lifetime. You knew who Nixon, McGovern, Dole, McCain, Kerry, Dukakis, Clinton et al were, for better or worse. Romney is a hollow nothing of a man.

  6. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yes, that’s a wise assumption, but even the most venal of them understand that they need to maintain some sort of consistency over time in order to have _any_ credibility at all – at the very least, they know they have to acknowledge that they’ve changed positions & explain why. Romney’s complete obliviousness to the concept of a public record of his own statements is truly an anomaly, even among the ranks of politicians.

  7. DRS says:

    The thing with Romney is that he is in one way a total politician – flip-flop! flop-flip! pander! pander! pander! – and in another way its antithesis – he’s so BAD at it. “The trees are the right height.” “…severely conservative…” It’s like a pickpocket that doesn’t bother creeping up to you but clomps up wearing clogs and asks you to unzip your windbreaker for him so he can reach into your pocket more easily. You want to say: “Dude, you’re totally unclear on the concept here, aren’t you?”

  8. PD Shaw says:

    While “government must be on the side of human life” he recognized that ” it is very difficult to criminalize any activity once a large portion of society comes to see it as a ‘right

    .’”

    Does anybody think that is a pro-choice position? Government must be pro-life; jailing pregnanet women and doctors may be difficult? If I’m NARAL, I would score him as an enemy of choice without a moment’s hesitation.

    Santorum conceded that he “was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress… But it had never been something I thought about.”

    Perhaps that decides it. I can’t find the quote after a quick browse and the article looks interesting in its own right. I’ll read it tonight. But the impression I get is that in his career as a state legislator, he shut up about his views on abortion, that he was pro-life personally, but had no public policy position on it.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    I think it’s entirely possible to hold an essentially “pro-life” position personally but decide that it’s not something you should force on others.

    Not that it would play well in today’s politics, of course…

  10. de stijl says:

    @Rob in CT:

    That’s essentially the position of many Democrats.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: I agree, and its worth mentioning that many people think Roe v. Wade was wrong and are pro-choice.

    In terms of Santorum, I think the problem is that the first part of his political career is before Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which overruled parts of Roe. To me a politician before 1992 had very little he could be for or against. He could say Roe should be overturned and advocate the appointment of strict constructionalist to the Court, but that’s pretty much it unless he goes all John Brown.

    The line up of the SCOTUS in ’92 appeared to favor complete reversal of Roe, and when it didn’t happen, the court challenge receded from front and center. Indeed, Casey in some ways corrected problems in Roe v. Wade, and made future challenges less foreseeable. Justices hadn’t voted like they ought to have, the movement necessarily became less accommodating. Trust issues.

    OTOH, Casey allows a lot more state and federal regulation of abortion, so politicians could take a lot more positions on things. New ideas popped up like invasive procedures to inform women of “life.” There is simply more data to cull after ’92.

    Finally, Casey came out of PA, which appears to have been to the pro-life side of at least what the SCOTUS deemed acceptable. I think that is something that needs to be considered in evaluating Santorum’s positions.

  12. Septimius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Clearly Rick Santorum has adopted his conservative positions on social issues purely for political gain. After all, he probably enjoys being called crazy, bizarre, disturbing, and dangerous by bloggers like you on a daily basis.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Clearly Rick Santorum has adopted his conservative positions on social issues purely for political gain. After all, he probably enjoys being called crazy, bizarre, disturbing, and dangerous by bloggers like you on a daily basis.

    Ahh, but that’s just the point…for someone who was pro-choice as late as 1990, the views he has now make him appear to be even more extreme and bizarre…

  14. JeffG says:

    Wow, this is just so sad. Santorum was personally anti-abortion, took an early legal issue that redounded to viability (making him reluctantly pro-choice), then, at 32, recently married and forced as a candidate to determine what his public stance going forward will be, he determined that he’d be anti-abortion as a legislator, as well.

    And he “switched” his position to the more socially conservative position while running for a seat in a liberal state.

    This is your indictment?

    This site has truly taken a turn for the worse with you engaging in your little strained, narrative massages, Doug.

    I mean, they’re not only predictable and hamfisted, but they rely on a kind of awkward consensus of naked emperor gazers within the site’s commentariat to even begin to feel sturdy.