Follow Us

As senator, Santorum was obsessed with abortion

by

The United States Senate deals with a wide range of issues, both foreign and domestic, but the ones that preoccupied Rick Santorum the most during his tenure appear to have been gynecological. An examination of the surging GOP presidential contender's record using the Sunlight Foundation's Capitol Words (LINK) reveals the degree to which Santorum favored topics such as abortion, fetuses and wombs when he was serving in Congress' upper chamber.

According to our analysis, between January 1, 1996 and January 3, 2007 (his last day as a member of the Senate), the then-junior senator from Pennsylvania spoke the following words more than anybody else in the Senate: abortion, partial-birth, fetus, fetal, womb. He also uttered the following phrases more than anyone else: “base of the skull,” and “life of the mother."

Total Santorum utterances (1/1/1996-1/3/2007) Total Senate utterances (1/1/1996-1/3/2007) Santorum % Rank
abortion 1014 8328 12.2% #1
partial-birth 379 1787 21.2% #1
fetus 145 780 18.6% #1
"partial birth" 116 466 24.9% #1
fetal 99 1134 8.7% #1
womb 90 369 24.4% #1
"base of the skull" 34 48 70.8% #1
"life of the mother" 74 307 24.1% #1
Though he was just one of 100 senators, Santorum was responsible for approximately one of eight utterances of “abortion” during the ten years covered by our analysis, and approximately one in five utterances of “fetus” and “partial-birth.”

As a Senator, Santorum was the sponsor of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which criminalized the so-called  “partial-birth abortion,"  as opponents term a controversial procedure for ending late-term pregnancies. Doctors who perform this procedure now face a fine and up to two years in prison. He was also a co-sponsor of a number of bills that would have prohibited children from crossing state lines to receive an abortion, and would have required abortion providers to tell pregnant women aware that the abortion will cause their unborn child pain.

As a candidate, Santorum has built a campaign around his strong opposition to abortion and gay rights. He wants to ban all abortions and to ban all same-sex marriage.

Santorum recently went so far as to compare himself to “a Jesus candidate.” He was not, however, the “Jesus” Senator. According to Capitol Words, that distinction belongs to Robert C. Byrd.

 

HOW WE DID THIS:

The numbers in this post were generated using Capitol Words, a Sunlight Foundation project that analyzes the frequency with which different terms appear in the Congressional Record. We used the Capitol Words API to calculate how often Sen. Santorum used each phrase versus the entire Senate during the time periods in which Santorum was in office and for which we have data. An example query is:

http://capitolwords.org/api/dates.json?apikey=API_KEY_GOES_HERE&phrase=partial-birth&start_date=1996-01-01&end_date=2007-01-03&chamber=Senate&bioguide_id=S000059

To get the term count for the entire Senate, we simply removed the "bioguide_id" parameter. You can find more information about the Capitol Words API in this blog post.