National Catholic Register


Will Pro-Lifers Forgive Santorum?

BY Matthew Archbold

| Posted 8/16/10 at 12:30 AM


Say the words “Santorum for President” to a pro-lifer. I dare you. Try it. Chances are they’ll say a few good things about the former Pennsylvania Senator about being a Catholic father of seven children or a strong defender of family values but then they’ll say the word no politician wants to hear.


Many pro-lifers haven’t gotten over their disillusionment and disappointment of his 2004 endorsement of pro-choice Senator Arlen Specter over pro-life Pat Toomey in the 2004 Pennsylvania Republican primary.

It’s easy to look back on that decision now, especially since Specter’s party switch, and say Santorum did the wrong thing. I am one of them. I was bitterly disappointed in Santorum when I heard about the endorsement. I believe it was the wrong thing to do.

But in a recent interview with the Spectator Santorum admitted the endorsement was a mistake.

“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” he said. “I’ve admitted that. But you’ve gotta understand what my thinking was at the time. We had a 51-49 majority in the Senate. George W. Bush was up for a tough re-election fight. My sole focus was, how do we secure our majority, related most importantly to how could we confirm up to three Bush nominees to the Supreme Court.

Some say that we should take into account that at the time of the endorsement Democrats were filibustering conservative federal judicial nominees and paying little or no political price. Republicans wanted to keep their slim majority and were afraid that Toomey, who didn’t have the name recognition he has now, wouldn’t win against a good campaigner in Democrat Congressman Joe Hoeffel.

If Toomey would’ve beaten Specter in the primary and lost in the general election some believe that the nominations of judges John Roberts or Samuel Alito would not have survived. Santorum has said that Specter promised him that if he endorsed him he would support George W. Bush’s judicial nominations which he did. That support helped get Samuel Alito and John Roberts onto the Court. So one could argue that Santorum’s seeming defection helped put pro-lifers on the court.

I agree with Santorum that it was a mistake. It can be argued, however, that he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. I consider it a failing but the good news is that so does he. Politicians, like all of us, make mistakes. Political strategies get pro-lifers into trouble. Always have. We’ve accepted losses for promised gains too often. but it seems to me that pro-lifers are done strategizing. They believe politicians should do what’s right. All the time.

This issue of Santorum’s 2004 endorsement must be faced by pro-lifers as Santorum has said in published reports that he’s considering a presidential run. Can pro-lifers get past Santorum’s endorsement of Specter? Can pro-lifers forgive Santorum?

Will pro-lifers finally drop the “but?”