Santorum: He’s not funny any more

I admit that I’ve found Mr. Santorum’s unlikely rise rather amusing. He would self-immolate in the general election. I’ve never expected him to do more than make mischief for Romney. Of course he’s made any number of odious statements about LGBT people. Yet his comments on this front are so self-parodic and self-defeating, I found it hard to get super-upset.
 
Now, though, he’s got me seriously ticked off. Sayeth Mr. Santorum this weekend
One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing,… Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare — another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.
I’m writing these words with my smiling brother-in-law Vincent sitting next to me, admiring the green lunchbox that we just bought him. Vincent lives with intellectual disabilities caused by fragile X syndrome. I find the above comments indescribably insulting.

Santorum’s comments are only made uglier by their utter lack of foundation. There is no evidence whatsoever that liberals–let alone President Obama–are less solicitious or caring about the disabled than other Americans. I’ve never heard any liberal health policy wonk promote genetic technologies to “cull the ranks of the disabled” or as part of any cost-cutting plan. That ugly meme is completely made up. By any reasonable measure, the proliferation of genetic diagnostic technologies coincides with great progress in public acceptance and support for people with disabilities.

Certainly liberals are willing to spend more money on disability services. I’ve published analyses showing that states’ 2008 voting share for John McCain was strongly correlated with reductions in state expenditures for intellectual disability services during the current recession. Most of the major disability organizations supported ACA for the obvious reasons. Preexisting condition clauses, essential health benefits, health insurance for young adults, etc. are specifically pertinent for people living with physical and mental disabilities.

Mr. Santorum (like Sarah Palin before him) disfigures public debate over painful issues such as prenatal genetic testing by making these matters another front in the culture wars. The ethical, political, and clinical dilemmas occasioned by these technologies will be hard enough. (More on these complex issues here.) Until now, at least, public discussion of these issues has been relatively free of partisan and cultural rancor.

Santorum’s campaign will eventually collapse under its own weight, not least because he keeps making such clownish offensive statements. Unfortunately, he may do real damage before he goes.

For the original comments and Santorum’s amplification, see here.

Postscript: As Ben Adler notes here, Santorum has opposed a variety of critical programs for people living with disabilities.

Comments

  1. Ed Whitney says

    Anyone old enough to remember Roe vs. Wade remembers the cries of alarm in its aftermath that soon the mentally retarded would be culled from society and euthanized in large numbers. The fact that their rights have dramatically expanded since 1973 should, from time to time, be brought up in debates and thrown in the fact of the likes of Santorum. Politeness can be dispensed with. Respect for the freedom of individuals underlay both trends; the Santorums of the world, who distrust liberty, cannot or will not grasp this simple point.

    But if Santorum crashes too soon (e.g., before winning Michigan and most of the Super Tuesday primaries), his fall will not have nearly enough adverse consequences for the Tea Party and the rest of contemporary made-for-TV conservatism. His inevitable collapse will be more productive the greater if it pulls down a more highly built-up structure.

    Genetic problems affect people of all political persuasions, and many people whose lives have been touched by these conditions will be distributed equally between the two political parties and independents. Some of them will speak out soon enough with stories of their own, delivered in a way that will make Santorum squirm. Someone whose baby could have been saved with timely prenatal diagnosis and in utero intervention will (if Santorum sticks to his guns on this) come forth a narrative which will make him wish he had never brought up the subject.

  2. EMRVentures says

    Santorum’s argument seems to be that people informed of their child’s severe disability while in utero opt for abortions more often than those without such knowledge. On this narrow reading of the issue, he appears to this layperson with no expertise in the field to have some colorable support for his position. The high abortion rate among prenatally identified Downs Syndrome and other severely handicapped children does not seem to be a secret. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/%28SICI%291097-0223%28199909%2919:9%3C808::AID-PD637%3E3.0.CO;2-B/abstract

    His answer, though, seems to be … shh, don’t tell them. Let it be a preventable surprise. Don’t give them the option of choosing, because they might just choose wrongly. The less we let parents who can’t afford these procedures without the help of insurance or government support of programs that provide such knowledge, the better. To attribute the provision of prenatal health to as many recipients as possible as a liberal conspiracy to cull the herd, though, is just lunacy.

    The fact that prenatal testing may reveal all sorts of other issues that can be addressed and help to foster a healthier birth and a healthier child is beside the point. What is important to Santorum is preventing abortions, not promoting health, and that goal should be pursued at any cost. I seldom watch the Sunday shows, but happened to see the Schieffer interview as I was staying with family. The political spectrum was wide in the room, but the revulsion at Santorum’s brutality and callousness was universal.

    He’s barbaric, really.

    • biggerbox says

      Worse, since presumably those with means and reasons to worry will still be getting tested and aborting at the same rate as now, Santorum’s policy position means that the (to use his word) ‘disabled’ babies will mostly be born to the least economically and educationally able to deal with the challenges that result.

      His “hidden message”? Screw the poor- rich people are the only ones who matter.

      Barbaric doesn’t even begin to describe it.

      (And don’t get me started on why, if that bunch of cells in there is supposed to be a human being with rights and all, we shouldn’t want to make sure it gets the best care possible. If Ricky were consistent, he’d be fighting for mandatory prenatal care.)

  3. EMRVentures says

    One further note about the Schieffer interview — Schieffer kept after him about his stupid positions on abortion, prenatal care and public health. Santorum got rattled and went on way too long trying to back out of the hole he had dug, and in the process revealed much more than he surely wanted of the lizard within. His handlers were no doubt pulling their hair out backstage.

    The interview ran out of time before they ever got to any discussion of the economy or other issues, and Santorum ended up with no opportunity to lay out any sound bites about the shortcomings of either Romney or Obama.

  4. says

    These are two completely different issues. My wife got pregnant in her late 40′s and we did testing because we wanted to know whether or not to worry about aborting if the child had a disability. As far as I know, I wouldn’t find anything really wrong with doing so. That’s just how I define personhood, and where my view of sanctity lies. I completely understand that others have very different definitions and feelings. But I simply can’t not believe something because others don’t believe it. For instance, I find it morally repugnant to cause animals pain, especially by the millions, for our own culinary pleasure. But I understand that others don’t view it that way. I think they are wrong, but I get that it is a complex, nuanced and subjective issue.

    All of this aside, I have great respect for the dignity of all people, and profound admiration for parents of the disabled and all who struggle with disability. The simple reality is that were I to have been aborted, I would have never existed to worry over it. Billions of lives are lost everyday when spermatozoa fail to fertilize ovulated eggs. Shall we weep for all of those who could have been? There are just too many forms of suffering in the world that more severely require our attention. I can’t help but think of abortion rights as a sort of highly arbitrary and culturally fabricated theological fetish, with little basis in actually human experience of suffering or existential significance. At least in the case of animals, one can make the case that orders of magnitude of actual, measurable suffering are occurring.

    • says

      Billions of lives are lost everyday when spermatozoa fail to fertilize ovulated eggs
      Are billions of lives lost by the failure of spermatozoa to fertilize eggs, or are billions of lives avoided?

      The simple reality is that were I to have been aborted, I would have never existed to worry over it.
      The less simple reality is that there is some point at which you did exist to worry over it. Was it at birth or do your definition of personhood and view of sanctity neglect some infants? Not really relevant to this issue.

      Anyway, Santorum is a clown. Even if there were a conspiracy, which there clearly is not, it is a very strange type of conspiracy. Instead of imposing behavior on the populace, the boogeyman elite is giving the populace the tools to make their own choice.

  5. Anomalous says

    Santorum: “Prenatal testing, specifically amniocentesis does result more often than not in abortion. That is a fact.”
    REALLY? That seems highly unlikely on it’s face. People having medical tests done to detect statistically unlikely problems, wheather it be cancer, down syndrome or what have you, will ‘more often than not’ fail find a problem. This sounds like BS pulled from Mr. Santorums posterior.

    This is what I find most frightening about Santorum. He has the ability to spout this kind of non-sense with a perfectly rational tone. In this day when the media watchdogs have proven happy to let GOP pols slide BS like this into the debate without a question* BS can turn to common wisdom.

    *Mr. Schieffer can’t be blamed for letting this one get by as the crap was flying fast and furious.

  6. Mirik says

    The man is an insane liar. He can’t possibly believe this nonsense, but his moron voters do. He also told people that 5% of yearly deaths in The Netherlands iw forces by government against the will of the patient. And that because of that old and sick people flee to other counties.

    So blatantly absurd. Can we not challenge these lies in court?

  7. Geoff G says

    Women of childbearing age should be forbidden from receiving any medical care because just about any “diagnosis” could result in a woman making a decision I disagree with. I understand why women might be concerned about their health, but I’m concerned about their health too, don’t I have any rights? Also, as a dispassionate observer, I have much more perspective on women’s problems than they do, and, being a man, I’m less emotional and hormonal too. It wasn’t that long ago when this entire conversation would have been unthinkable for just that reason – no woman would have had the temerity to think her health was her concern, and, perhaps not coincidentally, medical care was primitive. It’s not for nothing that people refer to that as the good old days.

  8. Dennis says

    …media watchdogs have proven happy to let GOP pols trolls slide BS like this into the debate…

    Fixed it for you, Anamolous. And I mean troll in the Grimm-Tolkien-Rowling sense. Santorum is one, if ever there was.

  9. David R. says

    This is a great post, thanks, but an equally important problem is the utter failure of the national press
    to accurately and timely report what Mr. Santorum is saying. The so-called liberal bias is really a
    conservative bias, where the press is afraid to tell the public the odious things that Mr. Santorum and others
    are saying for fear of being criticized.

    http://dismalpoliticaleconomist.blogspot.com/2012/02/news-media-has-huge-bias-in-favor-of.html

    Mr. Santorum is a viable candidate not in spite of a hostile press, but because a cowering press is
    to afraid to print the real story.

  10. InfiniteThoughts says

    Question for Rick Santorum and his supporters: Can you reconcile the 2 statements made by Rick – (1) Parents shouldnt be able to do prenatal tests to check for genetic disorders (2)How should parents pay for disabled children – Rick made a statement that pharma companies should be able to price their products, even if it meant that parents had to pay $1 million/year (at least on paper) for disability drugs?

    Does Rick’s compassion end when the child is born into this world?

    • Ed Whitney says

      Cardinal Fang is on to something very important, and I am amazed not to see his finding all over the blogosphere. I have been trying to make certain that that link in fact is a complete list of prenatal tests that the law mandates coverage of, and am unable to confirm that amniocentesis is not a service whose coverage is required (albeit with perhaps a copay).
      If Santorum made this whole thing up, I wonder why Team Obama is silent, why every progressive blog site I look on has nothing about it, and why Santorum has not been confronted about it.
      Is there anyone out there who has the necessary expertise on the provisions of the ACA to say for certain that amniocentesis is not covered anywhere by the law? Help, please.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Santorum: He’s not funny any more « The Reality-Based Community: I admit that I’ve found Mr. Santorum’s unlikely rise rather amusing. He would self-immolate in the general election. I’ve never expected him to do more than make mischief for Romney. Of course he’s made any number of odious statements about LGBT people. Yet his comments on this front are so self-parodic and self-defeating, I found it hard to get super-upset. Now, though, he’s got me seriously ticked off. Sayeth Mr. Santorum this weekend:  [...]

  2. [...] Santorum: He’s not funny any more « The Reality-Based Community: I admit that I’ve found Mr. Santorum’s unlikely rise rather amusing. He would self-immolate in the general election. I’ve never expected him to do more than make mischief for Romney. Of course he’s made any number of odious statements about LGBT people. Yet his comments on this front are so self-parodic and self-defeating, I found it hard to get super-upset. Now, though, he’s got me seriously ticked off. Sayeth Mr. Santorum this weekend:  [...]

  3. [...] Santorum: He’s not funny any more « The Reality-Based Community: I admit that I’ve found Mr. Santorum’s unlikely rise rather amusing. He would self-immolate in the general election. I’ve never expected him to do more than make mischief for Romney. Of course he’s made any number of odious statements about LGBT people. Yet his comments on this front are so self-parodic and self-defeating, I found it hard to get super-upset. Now, though, he’s got me seriously ticked off. Sayeth Mr. Santorum this weekend:  [...]