Santorum Isn't Bad, He's Just Drawn that Way

Kathryn Lopez

1/7/2012 12:15:00 AM - Kathryn Lopez

The piece has whipped up a predictable frenzy on the Internet, with one commenter labeling the Catholic Church a "cult." The problem with these headlines and comments is that they are untrue.

What Santorum has said is that the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision was a bad precedent, bad law. It declared a constitutional right for married persons to use contraceptives. Writing for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas declared that "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance" and that "various [of these] guarantees create zones of privacy."

Santorum's is a perfectly sound opinion, as evidenced by the opaque verbiage quoted above. What is it about his views that always cause the left to mount a hysterical scare campaign?

It has something to do with courage of conviction and public witness. In this age of overhyped faux tolerance, those who use the word tend to harbor an enthusiasm only for the tolerance of their own views. Santorum is a threat because he not only believes countercultural things, he not only lives them, but he will talk about them publicly and defend them.

Many of these headline foofaraws were fueled by his words to a blogger earlier this week, when he said that as president, he would talk about the "dangers of contraception." But when pressed on what exactly that meant, he has made expressly clear that he believes this is not an issue for legislation.

Some of us were keen on hearing President Obama talk more about the crucial role of fatherhood, given that it forms such a compelling part of his biography. Not shockingly, a president Santorum would be a friend to sex- education programs that provide something other than condom handouts, that are not so much about naively pretending teens will never have sex if lectured to enough, but about giving them a healthy respect, as one program puts it, for themselves and others.

And there's something else worth noting: While it wouldn't be wise for the president to launch a national lecture campaign (we get way too much of that from the current commander in chief) on so intimate an issue, it must be said that his view is not as fringe-oriented as it is portrayed. Obviously, he is informed by his Catholic faith here. But in recent years, we've seen the testimony of women who realize the damage that contraception has done in their lives, in their relationships. One New York magazine cover story marking the anniversary of oral contraceptives included the following: "The Pill didn't create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill's primary side effect."

The family unit is one that can help keep us out of poverty and keep us healthy and happy. It's worth boosting, and the changes that law and technology have made in our lives are part of that discussion. Contraception may not be the priority of the commander in chief, but let's not pretend it's irrelevant to who we are and where we are going as a people. This president's administration, mandating health-care coverage for contraception and sterilization, certainly hasn't taken this into consideration.

During his near-victory speech in Iowa, Santorum said: "God has given us this great country to allow his people to be free, has given us that dignity because we are a creation of his. We need to honor that creation. And whether it's the sanctity of life in the womb or the dignity of every working person in America to fulfill their potential, you will have a friend in Rick Santorum."

His career has been characterized by a mix of approaches: He has used the levers of government and the powerful platforms available to those in the public square, highlighting and encouraging others to bolster that God-given dignity. It's not the creepy thing it's portrayed as; what's unsettling is the insistence on caricaturing him as some sort of shrill Puritan bogeyman.

In this campaign, Santorum has not been lecturing about so-called social issues. But he gets asked about them, and he answers honestly. Can't we be honest too?

Kathryn Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.