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Santorum defends mourning loss of newborn son
By Michelle Bauman
Senator Rick Santorum, and his wife Karen Santorum at the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa. Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Senator Rick Santorum, and his wife Karen Santorum at the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa. Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

.- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that only those who “don’t recognize the dignity of all human life” might think that he is “somehow weird” for how he dealt with the loss of his son in 1996.

To those who think a baby is merely “a blob of tissue that should be discarded and disposed of,” recognition of a dead baby’s humanity is something that “should be subject to ridicule,” the former Pennsylvania senator said at a campaign event in Iowa on Jan. 2.

Santorum was recently criticized by political commentators for his actions following the death of his premature son Gabriel, who died just two hours after he was born.

In a Fox News interview, Santorum explained that he and his wife, Karen, decided to take their son home “to have a funeral at home and then to bury him later that day.”

They also showed the child to his siblings, so they could get a chance to see their baby brother.

Santorum said that it was “a tremendously healing experience for all of us” and that it helped “recognize the dignity” of his son’s life and “affirm that memory” for his whole family.

On a Fox News segment on Jan. 2, political commentator Alan Colmes criticized Santorum for “some of the crazy things he’s said and done, like taking his two-hour-old baby who died right after childbirth home and played with it for a couple hours, so his other children would know the child was real.”

In a Jan. 5 interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson also ridiculed Santorum and his wife for taking their son home “to kind of sleep with it, introduce it to the rest of the family.”

“He’s not a little weird,” said Robinson, “he’s really weird.”

But Robinson and Colmes were “speaking out of a seemingly bottomless well of ignorance,” according to Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

In a Jan. 5 article in Commentary magazine, he pointed out that health experts often suggest spending time with a stillborn child as a means of grieving.

The American Pregnancy Association advises parents of stillborn children that they “can find comfort in looking at, touching, and talking to your baby,” and that they may wish to allow their other children to see the baby as well.

Making memories can also be a natural part of the grieving process, the association said on its website, explaining that this can be done by bathing and clothing the baby, or even reading or singing to the child.

Wehner decried the “particular delight and glee” with which the political commentators showed a “casual cruelty” towards Santorum.

“Robinson seems completely comfortable lampooning a man and his wife who had experienced the worst possible nightmare for parents: the death of their child,” he said.

Wehner said the incidents showed how “ideology and partisan politics” can “disfigure” some people’s minds and hearts, making them vicious in political disagreements.

Santorum said Colmes later called to apologize. Colmes tweeted that he had spoken to Santorum and his wife and that they had “graciously accepted my apology for a hurtful comment.”

For his part, Robinson stopped short of an apology when questioned by Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Jan. 6.

Although he said he wished that he “hadn’t said it that way,” Robinson also reiterated his belief that Santorum’s views are “extreme” and said he feels that he has an obligation as a columnist to voice his opinions.


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