Santorum flip-flops on family planning

He was against Title X before he was for it. Or something. Why his "I won't ban birth control" vow can't be trusted

Topics: Rick Santorum, Contraception, ,

Santorum flip-flops on family planningRepublican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (Credit: AP Jae C. Hong)

Whatever else he is, culture warrior Rick Santorum has never appeared to be the flip-flopper in the 2012 GOP nomination battle. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are Flip and Flop, so often have they changed their tune on healthcare policy, individual insurance mandate, climate change and other issues. (Only Gingrich, to be fair, has flip-flopped on his marriage vows.)

But Santorum is now vying for the flip-flop championship thanks to his remarkable change of heart on Title X family planning funds during Wednesday night’s debate in Mesa, Ariz. You’ll recall that over the last few days he’s been bragging about his support for Title X, to prove that mean feminists and shifty Democrats are wrong when they say he wants to take away your birth control. Strange bedfellows Rush Limbaugh and the Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger have claimed that it’s Democrats who are making an issue out of Santorum’s contraception beliefs.

Santorum himself insists that he does not want to ban birth control. “It’s funny that I’ve been criticized by Governor Romney and Ron Paul for actually having voted for something called Title X, which is actually federal funding of contraception,” he told Charlie Rose. On Fox News he said, “I support Title X, I guess it is, and have voted for contraception and although I don’t think it works, I think it’s harmful to women, I think it’s harmful to our society.” In his 2006 book “It Takes a Family,” Santorum also touts his support for Title X.

But when Rep. Ron Paul criticized him for that stand Wednesday night, Santorum came out as an opponent of Title X. You need to read the whole exchange to appreciate Santorum’s mendacity:

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including…

(BOOING)

… the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multi-billion-dollar bill….

ROMNEY: Just a — just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. You…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.”

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: I think it’s — I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that…

(BOOING)

… I’ve never supported it, and — and have — and on an individual basis have voted against it.

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So there you have it. Santorum and his friends have run to Henneberger and other journalists to whine about Salon distorting his views on contraception. Henneberger wrote not one but two pieces defending Santorum and citing his vote for Title X as proof he’s not coming for our birth control. But at a GOP debate – where the classy right-wing crowd booed the mere mention of contraception, the way they’ve booed gay soldiers and cheered for uninsured people dying as well as the death penalty – he tells us “I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding.”

I hope that clears up whatever confusion may still exist about Santorum’s views on contraception – as well as about his honesty. The debate certainly cleared up questions about whether he can win the nomination. What a debacle.

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