Oh, Rick

If you follow politics at all (and I, unfortunately, do), you may have seen Rick Santorum come under fire for being a hypocrite.

The charge stems from the pro-choice left and pro-choice feminists who accuse Santorum of exercising a right for his wife (late term abortion) that he would take away from other women. He would, frankly, outlaw all abortions if he could, even in the cases of preserving the health or life of the mother.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like Rick Santorum. The term used in a conversation on Twitter was “theocratic neocon”, and I think that is spot on. Even as a Catholic, I don’t like that much religion in my politics. I’d like to see the end of social conservatism as it is practiced in American politics today. I don’t think government should be involved in personal, medical, or sexual decisions that adults make.

That Santorum, and by extension his wife Karen, is under fire for a medical decision — a choice — that he and his wife were facing when Karen was pregnant with their son Gabriel, distresses me mostly because of what is being overlooked. And that is the lost baby, and the bereaved parents.

I don’t need to go on and on about how awful, how absolutely devastating it is to lose a child. I’ve covered that pretty well here.

I am sorry the Santorums lost a baby. I am sorry that they faced a difficult medical decision (to induce labor so Karen could deliver her 20-week-old baby). Due to a number of circumstances (medical problems the baby had, fetal surgery, and a uterine infection), Karen was literally dying when these medical decisions had to be made. She went into pre-term labor, and Gabriel was delivered. He died two hours after his birth.

It’s a sad story that has been dragged out because of Santorum’s politics. That makes me sadder. Because those in the media who would use this to disparage Santorum’s politics, in my opinion, just look ugly. It’s a dead baby; it’s a woman who suffered more than I can imagine (and, hello!); it’s a husband and father who were facing not just the loss of his son, but the loss of his wife — his partner, his love, and mother to his other children.

No one should have to face that, or make the choice that Karen and Rick (almost) had to make. But it does happen, couples do have to face that — not often, but often enough — and, yes, Santorum should have no say in what other women and other couples decide.

Regardless, my heart goes out to the Santorums for the loss of their son. I do know how that feels. It’s the worst feeling in the world. And it can’t help that they have to revisit it now in the glare of the spotlight. I’m sad for them.

And, that is all.

[updated to add:]

So I went ahead and forgot about the part where certain people were also denigrating the Santorums for taking Gabriel home to show him to their children.

This was how Karen and Rick decided to help their children grieve the death of their brother.

It’s also not very much of anyone’s business.

Janet, at Love Is Blonde, wrote a very powerful post about her reaction to some of the media reaction, and their characterization of the Santorums’ actions as gross or creepy.

It made me remember holding my Gabriel. I should’ve held him longer too.

I remember my brother — who was still at the hospital at 2 a.m., when Gabriel was finally delivered, who was already a father two times over, most recently of a boy born a month before Gabriel — who came into the room, and took my son into his arms, and *rocked* him. Even though my son was dead, my brother held and rocked him just as he would’ve had Gabriel been alive.

The next morning, before we left the hospital, I asked to see Gabriel again. I undressed him, and cried some more over his small, still, perfect body. Maybe that strikes you as gross or morbid or creepy.

My son was a real baby. And I needed to see and touch him, so that I would never forget it. If I had had other children at the time, I think I would’ve wanted them to see Gabriel too. As it is, we visit his grave. Flora and Kate know he existed (Michael, obviously, is unaware as of yet).

I don’t think the Santorums did anything wrong.

There, I guess *that’s* all.

11 thoughts on “Oh, Rick

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Just as they got to choose how to deal with a medical emergency, all women/spouses should get that same choice.

    I hadn’t realized some of the details that you posted, that they induced labor and that her life was at risk. How have they been able to make a pro-life crusade out of the tragedy if what they chose was not pro-life? Or maybe I am terrible confused here. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

    Either way, it is a tragedy in itself, and extra sad that it has been made political, too.

    • If I recall correctly (I would have to go back and read Letters to Gabriel, Karen’s book), she went into pre-term labor before they had to induce. The media stories aren’t clear on whether or not she had pitocin at some point to finish delivering the baby. If so, then yes, she had what amounts to a late-term abortion [edited to add:] according to some journalists. Because they knew the baby couldn’t survive outside the womb.

      My best guess is that Santorum thinks he would be doing people a favor by taking the choice away from them. That they would never be in his shoes, telling doctors more or less to kill his child in order to save his wife. It’s a convulted way of thinking — and mind you, that’s MY best guess. I don’t really understand the man and why he brings his fervor as a Catholic — which is his choice of religion to follow — to his politics.

  2. I concur with many of your thoughts. However, I dispute the labeling of Gabriel’s birth as a late-term abortion. The pregnancy was terminated; the baby was not. That the baby died was an unfortunate result of double effect in saving Mrs. Santorum’s life.

    Abortion requires deliberately killing an unborn child. Partial-birth abortion involves partially delivering a baby and killing it before it completely exits the birth canal. What the Santorums did fit neither definition. There is a long tradition in Catholic bioethics addressing such difficult decisions, and that tradition does not require that a woman must die if her pregnancy is killing her. So long as reasonable efforts are made to preserve the life of her unborn child, neither a mother nor her doctor has sinned in ending such a pregnancy.

    Also, while I find Santorum’s theocracy distasteful, I do not lump banning abortion in with the rest of his positions. It needn’t be a religious matter; just ask the folks at Libertarians for Life. Abortion, being an act that ends the life of a human being, should be classified as homicide. As such, there may or may not be justifications for it that would exculpate the parties involved. That DOES NOT mean that abortion should be everywhere and always regarded as murder. After all, when post-natal humans are killed by others it may be accidental, self-defense, involuntary manslaughter, etc.

    However, like Ron Paul and other pro-life libertarians, I don’t believe the federal government has a legitimate role in the matter, except possibly to pass a personhood amendment to the Constitution, defining the legal beginning of human life as the moment that a complete set of chromosomes is present (i.e., at conception). Nevertheless, the states should not be blocked from treating abortion as homicide and establishing sentencing guidelines in accordance with their state constitutions.

    • I did not mean to characterize it as a late-term abortion, because I didn’t think it was either. I have read media coverage that terms it that (a D & E, although the baby wasn’t extracted), though. Exactly what you said: The pregnancy was terminated, the baby was not. HOWEVER, I think to a certain extent, we are using semantics. Because Gabriel was a 20-week-year-old fetus/baby who could not survive outside of the womb. Rick Santorum, I think, would characterize what happened, if it involved another couple, as late-term abortion. He himself has said that health of the mother is a “phony” reason to terminate any pregnancy after 20 weeks.

      I simply stand by my post’s point which is: I don’t like the way the media are dragging out his dead baby because of Santorum’s politics.

      • “Rick Santorum, I think, would characterize what happened, if it involved another couple, as late-term abortion.”

        No, I really don’t think he would. Saving the life of a mother is not the kind of murderous act implied when abortion, especially late-term, is usually spoken of.

        “He himself has said that health of the mother is a ‘phony’ reason to terminate any pregnancy after 20 weeks.”

        I very strongly suspect that he was drawing a distinction between health and life. Also, health has been broadened by a lot of progressives to include mental health. Talk about playing semantic games.

      • “I simply stand by my post’s point which is: I don’t like the way the media are dragging out his dead baby because of Santorum’s politics.”


  3. I agree with Eric here. I don’t think that Santorum and his wife did anything that was in conflict with their stated pro-life stance or with their church, even if labor was induced deliberately. Her life was at risk.

  4. This is a good discussion, and I’m glad we’re having it. However, I have to say that if politicians hadn’t gotten in the business of meddling in people’s private lives, then maybe we wouldn’t have this environment where candidates’ deeply personal matters get dragged out and picked apart in the public square.

    Newt Gingrich comes to mind, twenty years ago. And does anyone here recall the Terry Schiavo mess?

  5. Politicians should have zero say in decisions like the ones you describe. You would think that someone who has been through what Santorum has would have a bit more understanding or compassion for those in similar circumstances. The fact that he would substitute his judgment and his values into someone else’s life like that is nauseating.

    The guy is a theological caveman and that is his right. But he does not get to drag the rest of us along.

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