Liberal journalists want you to be scared of Rick Santorum, but at times that involves misinterpreting his arguments and ignoring his written statements.
“Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control,” proclaims the headline by liberal writer Irin Carmon. She warns darkly of a “contraception ban.” Libertarian lawyer Dan Mataconis makes this claim, too in a blog post titled “Rick Santorum Favors Making Birth Control Illegal.”
Both of these claims are false, though. Here’s the truth:
In his book, It Takes a Family, Santorum repeatedly wrote, directly and fairly unambiguously that he opposes laws that ban contraception. Speaking of the Connecticut contraception ban struck down by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, Santorum wrote “I would not have supported it or its intent.”
Of a similar Massachusetts law, Santorum writes in the book “I disagree with the Massachusetts law and its intent.”
None of the bloggers claiming Santorum wants to ban contraception find anywhere where he says that. Instead they point to three things he does believe:
1) The Supreme ruled incorrectly in Griswold and Eisenstadt and there is no fundamental right to contraception or broadly understood “privacy” in the Constitution.
2) The federal government should not be subsidizing contraception.
3) Contraception is immoral and destructive in how it corrupts the nature of the sexual act and harms marriage.
Item 1 is in line with a fairly common conservative view that the Court has overreached in its application of the 14th Amendment, and a view not uncommon among legal scholars that Griswold and Eisenstadt were sloppy.
Item 2 is in line with conservative and libertarian views that government shouldn’t subsidize things.
Item 3 is certainly a minority viewpoint – one professed by the Catholic Church but adhered to, in all likelihood, by a small minority even of Catholics. But it is a moral judgment, rooted in a traditional and long-held understanding of human nature that sex and marriage are inextricably linked to each other and to family -- meaning children. It is not a policy prescription. The only policy prescriptions above from Santorum add up to contraception should be neither banned nor subsidized.
Things get a bit more complex when it comes to contraceptives that also work by ending nascent human life, such as the morning-after pill that can work, according to its manufacturers, by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg or even (in the case of a new drug called “ella”) by starving an already-implanted embryo.
I don’t know what Santorum thinks about “ella,” but it’s worth noting the contours of the culture war over morning-after pills today. There’ no significant push to ban them. The folks using big government to impose morals today are the Left, who want to force employers, including Catholic colleges, to pay for morning-after pills for their employers.
None of these facts get in the way, however, of liberals playing the hoary old “Christians trying to police your bedroom” talk.