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What Are Rick Santorum's Views on Family Issues?

Rick Santorum is the middle of the three children. He attended public schools is West Virginia and Pennsylvania before graduating from a Roman Catholic high school in Illinois. Santorum is married to Karen Garver, and they have seven children together. In 1996, the Santorum’s lost their pre-maturely born son two hours after birth, and their decision to introduce the deceased child to the other children incurred public controversy. Their eighth child, Isabella, was diagnosed with the severe  genetic disorder known as Edwards Syndrome with only a 10% chance of survival rate past a year old. (Now 3, Bella was admitted to the hospital over the weekend.)

Santorum is a proponent of compassionate conservatism, and idea that stresses traditionally conservative techniques and thinking in order to improve society’s overall welfare. This figures largely in his stated plan to improve the economy by supporting the family unit. His conservative position includes opposition to federally sanctioned same-sex marriages and benefits (states, though, should rule on gay adoption). His fiscal record during his time as the Pennsylvania Senator in Congress, however, is mixed as he supported earmarks and big government programs in education. At the same time, Santorum also took a leading role in enacting welfare reform, and voted for tax cuts.

Source: Wikipedia

Note: In gathering the following material, I attempted to use objective information based on voting record, quotes, and non-partisan sources. At the moment, I fall in the category of “undecided” with respect to both the candidates and the parties they represent. Therefore, the views expressed here are not necessarily my own. (see also posts for Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul)


  • On Poverty 1 of 9
    On Poverty
    Santorum's voting record shows he is against federally backed welfare and associated programs. Instead Santorum supports charitable organizations as a means of addressing poverty and has stated that it is discriminatory to not make government concessions to faith-based charity groups. He believes citizens should be empowered to work rather than made dependent on the government. He feels that there is a strong link between promoting marriage and abstinence as a means of reducing poverty. Santorum has also voted to increase the earned income tax credit.
  • Notable Quote: Strong Families Equal a Strong Economy 2 of 9
    Notable Quote: Strong Families Equal a Strong Economy
    The biggest problem with poverty in America we don't talk about in an economic discussion. And that is the breakdown of the American family. You want to look at the poverty rate among families that have a husband and wife working in them? It's 5% today. A family that's headed by one person? It's 30% today (Politifact.com later put the facts of this statement into more accurate context.) …We need to have a policy that supports families; that encourages marriage; that has fathers take responsibility for their children. You can't have limited government, you can't have a wealthy society, if the family breaks down that basic unit of society.
    Source: 2011 GOP debate at Dartmouth College, NH , Oct 11, 2011
  • On Abortion 3 of 9
    On Abortion
    Mr. Santorum, per his personal religious views and political party's platform, has signed the anti-abortion pledge and supports a universal law against abortion to include in cases of rape or incest. However, he has expressed a willingness to compromise on these extreme circumstances if it means finding middle ground. His voting record shows that Santorum voted No on a bill providing $100 million to reduce teen pregnancy through education and contraceptives, while he voted Yes on a criminally prosecuting abortion doctors, banning partial abortions except for endangered mothers, and maintaining the ban of abortions on military bases. He has also voted against human cloning and stem cell research.
  • Notable Quote: Rape & Incest Exception Okay 4 of 9
    Notable Quote: Rape & Incest Exception Okay
    Q: If you believe that life begins at conception, then why do you support exceptions for rape, incest, and life of mother?

    SANTORUM: Yeah, I would vote for things like that.

    Q: But it's the taking of a life.

    SANTORUM: The Hyde Amendment allows rape, incest, life of the mother. That is the common ground we could get, and I would support that.

    Q: But by your standards, it's the taking of a life.

    SANTORUM: It is, there's no question it's the taking of a life. But it is an attempt for me to try to see if we can find common ground to actually make progress in limiting the other abortions. So yes, that's what I would do.
    Source: PA 2006 Senate Debate, Tim Russert moderator , Sep 3, 2006
  • On Education 5 of 9
    On Education
    Santorum believes family, religion, and schools are the most fundamental institutions in this country, and, along with his wife, he has homeschooled his six children. He believes the current school system is defunct and that there is a disparity between the rich and poor families' access to various education options. He sees sex education as being ineffective, and he contends that students should be exposed to the disagreements in biological evolution so they can decide on their own. Santorum has voted both for and against various government funded education programs, but has stated that more teacher and more funding just means more of the same outcomes.
  • Notable Quote: The Poor Need the Same Choices as the Rich 6 of 9
    Notable Quote: The Poor Need the Same Choices as the Rich
    We already have school choice in this country. The problem is that we've only got school choice for people who can afford it. School choice today takes two forms. The most obvious form is the choice exercised by those who can afford to pay the cost of private school. Second, there's an affordable from of school choice, which happens every day in every community in America. It's called MOVING. So we've got residential school choice already. And you know what? The same hysterical criticisms made by those against making school choice viable for low-income families already apply to residential school choice. It creams off the best students! More resources go to school that are already better! So we have plenty of school choice today already. But it's inefficient and unfair. It's disruptive and costly to move. And it's inequitable. Low-income families can't move, so they are stuck; their children are stuck. We must empower ALL our children with scholarships if we are to achieve common good.
    Source: It Takes A Family, by Sen. Rick Santorum, p.365-366 , Apr 30, 2006
  • On Taxes 7 of 9
    On Taxes
    As a conservative, Santorum is against increases in federal taxes, particularly as a means of certain funding social programs. He has pledged to simplify the current system with two rates (10% and 28%) with only 5 basic deductions. Santorum's record shows that larger families earning over $110K should be afforded more child credit and that credits in general should be given only to families who pay taxes. In 2001, Santorum voted no on reducing the marriage penalty over cutting top tax rates, but voted to eliminate the marriage penalty in 2000.
  • Notable Quote: Tax credits are for families who pay taxes 8 of 9
    Notable Quote: Tax credits are for families who pay taxes
    "The Senator from Arkansas said 15 million children are not going to benefit as a result of the child tax credit. What he did not tell you is those 15 million children have parents who pay no income tax. In fact, the majority of those--first, for all of those 15 million children, their parents receive an earned-income tax credit, most of which is not to pay them for the income tax they pay. They paid no income taxes. But it is to pay them for their Social Security taxes that they pay. And in the majority of cases it is to give them money beyond even their Social Security taxes. There is a statistic that, if you listen, on the face you would say, "Boy, this is not fair. We are not helping out the poor folks here in this country who need help." Wrong. We have the earned-income tax credit that does just that. This is for families who pay taxes. That is what the tax credit is for, for families who pay taxes. I just wanted to set the record straight on that."
    Source: Santorum speech in "A Senator Speaks Out", p. 87 , Nov 15, 1995
  • Parting Quote: Automatically Custody to Moms is Sexism 9 of 9
    Parting Quote: Automatically Custody to Moms is Sexism
    In disrupted families, only about 1 child in 6 sees his father as much as once a week. The divorce courts are often not kind to fathers. Ten years after a marriage breaks up, approximately 2/3 of children report that they haven't seen their father for over a year. Divorced wives can make it difficult for the fathers of their children to visit. Personally, I cannot imagine the pain of not being able to be a part of my children's formative years.

    There are many fathers out there who do not take an active role in their children's lives, but who are sadly barred from doing so by courts and mothers. Many fatherhood groups rightly complain that the family courts automatically award custody of childre to mothers, irrespective of the circumstances. It is one of the few places in our culture where sexism is not only condoned but virtually celebrated. This can lead to devastating consequences for the whole family.
    Source: It Takes A Family, by Sen. Rick Santorum, p.313-314 , Jul 4, 2005

* * *

Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons (Gauge Skidmore #2,#8,#9); Freeerangsstock #1,#5,#7

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