Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Karen Santorum's Past Let It Go; Her Pre-Rick Relationship Has Nothing to Do with His Campaign

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Karen Santorum's Past Let It Go; Her Pre-Rick Relationship Has Nothing to Do with His Campaign

Article excerpt

There are plenty of reasons to lodge charges of hypocrisy against Republican candidates for president. But in the case of Rick Santorum, his wife's past is not one of them.

Karen Santorum's former life recently made national news in the form of a story by Nancy Hass of The Daily Beast and Newsweek. While in her 20s, the former Karen Garver lived for six years with Tom Allen, one of the region's pioneering abortion doctors, 40 years her senior.

This has been well-known for decades to many people in Pittsburgh, including reporters. But it never circulated in print here, probably because it was regarded more as gossip than relevant information.

Still, it was only a matter of time until the scrutiny of a national campaign brought out this chapter of Mrs. Santorum's life in a more public way. Now that it's happened, it is no more germane to her husband's presidential aspirations than it ever was -- even though some opponents say her story undercuts his anti-abortion bona fides. That's a desperate and ridiculous charge, indicative of the tenuous hold on reality shared by some on the right-wing fringe whose votes Mr. Santorum is courting.

I don't believe there's anything hypocritical about Mrs. Santorum revising her abortion views. If anything, her story demonstrates the extent to which people can and do change over time. That doesn't make them insincere. It makes them human. But if her current view is legitimate, so was her former view. So this isn't as black and white as her husband insists.

There are many things to attack in Mr. Santorum's record, but those are not the things his fellow conservatives care about. He's threatened to bomb Iran, insisted there is no right to privacy in the Constitution and gamed the system in 2004 by billing the Penn Hills school district for $100,000 of his children's cyber school tuition even though the family actually lived in Virginia. That was a telling moment for a fiscal conservative who rails against government waste and fraud, but in a GOP primary battle over the title of Most Extreme, some would rather pile on his wife than his record.

Mrs. Santorum's story may not mean much, but it's still fascinating. Karen Garver, one of 12 children born into a staunch Catholic family, was for much of the 1980s the live-in partner of Tom Allen, a divorced obstetrician with six grown children of his own. She was 22 and a nursing student at Duquesne University. He was 63, a friend of her pediatrician father, and actually delivered her in 1960.

Long before Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal, Dr. Allen had helped establish the "therapeutic abortion" clinic at Magee-Womens Hospital, where women could end their pregnancies under the care of a doctor instead of a hack.

"Karen was a lovely girl, very intelligent and sweet," Dr. Allen, now 92, told Newsweek. …

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