WASHINGTON -- Top aides to Rick Santorum's presidential campaign are denying new reports that the former Pennsylvania senator subscribed to a pro-choice philosophy prior to entering electoral politics.
"Rick Santorum has always been pro-life," Hogan Gidley, Santorum's top spokesman, told The Huffington Post. "He ran as a pro-life candidate and got elected as a pro-life candidate. He was always a solid pro-life vote, wrote and passed pro-life legislation and consistently received the highest rankings from pro-life groups."
Gidley's statement came hours after The Huffington Post unearthed an issue statement made by Santorum during his 1990 campaign for the House of Representatives in which he acknowledged that it was "very difficult to criminalize" abortion when "a large portion of society" viewed it as "a right." He added that he supported abortion in cases of rape and incest. In a 1995 Philadelphia magazine article, meanwhile, Santorum conceded that he "was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress."
Gidley did not address or dispute that specific quote. But his argument that Santorum's record on abortion was both consistent and purely "pro-life" was also made by the senator's top adviser, John Brabender, who told the Washington Post that he had checked directly with the candidate himself.
"He never held a pro-choice position," Brabender said.
It's tough, if not impossible, to square Santorum's past comments with the statement his campaign is making now. If the Philadelphia magazine interview had been the one instance in which he ever acknowledged pro-choice leanings, it would be easier to dismiss. But as Thomas Schaller pointed out in a Jan. 10 Baltimore Sun column, Santorum copped to trying to "dance around the [abortion] issue" during his 1990 campaign. He also, at one point, said he was fine with abortion unless one was paid for with taxpayer money or performed during the third trimester.
And yet the Santorum campaign likely won't have difficulty refuting these statements. Few political observers question Santorum's credentials as a staunch opponent of abortion rights. There certainly isn't a perception that he's modified his beliefs for political convenience. So while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is dogged with criticism and mockery over his evolution on abortion, Santorum's past statements have prompted more curiosity than concern among conservatives.