News Column

Santorum to Speak at March for Life Rally

Jan 25, 2013

Colby Itkowitz

Santorum to Speak at March for Life Rally

Although seen as an anti-abortion standard bearer, Rick Santorum will speak Friday for the first time at the annual March for Life rally.

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania upended political wisdom in 2012 when his shoestring presidential campaign became the biggest thorn in the side of eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney. One day he was a fallen U.S. senator with a pipe dream, the next he was a rock star for the social conservative bloc of the Republican Party.

As a senator, Santorum held receptions with marchers, which every year includes a group from St. Thomas More Church in Salisbury Township. He also has joined in the traditional march from the National Mall to the Supreme Court steps.

Santorum will make his inaugural remarks before hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion activists Friday -- many of whom likely supported his candidacy for president -- at a time when polling indicates public opinion on abortion may be shifting.

A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday -- the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion -- found that 70 percent of Americans do not want the law overturned. It was the first time that a majority of Americans, 54 percent, said abortion should be legal either always or most of the time, according to NBC.

But Santorum, in an interview Thursday with The Morning Call, dismissed the polls as outliers and said he believes that people, especially young people, do not want "the unlimited access to abortion that exists in America today."

Abortion-related rhetoric played a prominent role in the 2012 campaign: There were debates over contraceptives and comments about rape and abortion by two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate. Some political strategists have argued that Republicans would be best not to engage on those topics because they alienate voters, especially women.

Santorum has the opposite view. He said Republicans should talk about so-called "social issues" more to get out in front of them, so GOP officials are not always playing defense.

"We didn't talk about it. When you let [Democrats] play offense on a very narrow slice and you don't turn it against them when they're clearly out of step, then we deserve what we got," Santorum said. "The other side will talk about it; they frame the debate. If we do, we can win. 'Let's put our head' in the sand is not the right approach."

In his public career, Santorum has never shied from his belief that abortions, even in the case of rape or incest, should be illegal. An analysis in January 2012 by the Sunlight Foundation found that Santorum said the word "abortion" more than 1,000 times on the Senate floor during his 12-year tenure. He also said "partial-birth," "fetus" and "womb" more than any other senator.

In his March for Life speech, Santorum said he'll speak more broadly about the "pro-life agenda," which he said includes not only eliminating abortion, but issues like euthanasia and "dignity for all human life."

Santorum also mentioned his belief, cited often on the campaign trail, that a husband and wife in a household is better for the economy than a single-parent one. More heterosexual marriages would create less poverty, he said. Santorum is against same-sex marriage.

"When you go down the income scale, you go down the marriage scale. But higher income [married people] don't preach what they practice," Santorum said. "President Obama is a classic example. God bless him, he has a great marriage, but they never talk about it. The community that is most attached to the president, African-Americans ... has out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and the ability for this president to not only demonstrate it, but to advocate it ...could have a profound effect."

Since conceding the Republican presidential nomination to Romney 10 months ago, Santorum has formed a nonprofit to advance his beliefs and the politicians who share them.

He's almost certainly eyeing another go at the White House in 2016, something he doesn't deny but won't confirm.

Reminded that in the last two cycles the man who effectively came in second -- John McCain in 2000 and Mitt Romney in 2008 -- became the party's nominee the next time it had an open seat, Santorum demurred.

"I break a lot of rules in a lot of ways -- good and bad," he said.



Source: (c)2013 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.