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Rick Santorum Thinks Pregnancy Through Rape is God's Gift? Seriously?

As a lapsed Catholic turned atheist, a staunch feminist and someone who has a strong general aversion to sleazy, disingenuous men, I was shocked yesterday to find myself feeling something like respect for Rick Santorum, Pope Benedict XVI and Piers Morgan all in the space of three minutes.Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (left) signs autographs at a Tea Party campaign rally. (Photograph: Joe Skipper/Reuters)

The three minutes in question are a clip from Morgan's interview with Santorum on the former's CNN talk show. In it, Santorum declares that even if his own daughter were raped – a hypothetical scenario both men manage to discuss with remarkable calm – the Roman Catholic presidential candidate would maintain his adamantly pro-life position regarding abortion.

I sincerely feel a tiny, grudging mote of respect for that degree of consistency. As anti-choice zealots go, those who will take the "baby killer" argument to its extreme appeal to me slightly more than those who can say with a straight face that abortion is murder, except when the woman didn't want to have sex.

Of course, that's the beginning and the end of my respect for Santorum, who had the gall to tell Morgan that his opposition to legal abortion is "not a matter of religious values". He insists that it's founded on his interpretation of the US constitution, as opposed to his interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ: "[L]ife begins at conception and persons are covered by the constitution, and because human life is the same as a person, to me it was a pretty simple deduction to make that that's what the constitution clearly intended to protect."

Hang on, I need a moment. Reading those words just gave me a bad flashback to tutoring hopeless freshman composition students in a university writing lab.

We're to believe that Santorum's desire to overturn Roe v Wade is "not a matter of religious values", yet, when discussing a hypothetical pregnancy by rape just moments later, he says: "I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you." ("In the sense of rape." Deep breaths, Kate.) "Gift from God," "person under the law" – why quibble about semantic differences? The point is: Life! Glorious life! Santorum will defend it!

And here's where my blip of respect for Morgan comes along. "I know that your position is – correct me if I'm wrong – that you believe in the sanctity and the innocence of life. How do you equate that with supporting the death penalty?" he asks. Boo-yah! I dearly wish more American reporters would put that question to self-styled "pro-life" candidates who evince little interest in the sanctity of human life ex utero.

That brings us to my smidgen of respect for Pope Benedict XVI – and for that matter, John Paul II before him – for making it clear that Catholic doctrine, in a moment of convergence with common sense, holds that a pro-life position contraindicates revenge-killing born people. "It cannot be overemphasized that the right to life must be recognised in all its fullness," Pope Benedict said in 2009, praising the abolition of the death penalty in Mexico. So at least in that one respect, Santorum can truthfully say that his political intentions are not based on his professed religious values.

Still, if you can't even speak for a whole minute on a political issue without invoking "God's will" as a supporting argument, you have no business running for president of a country whose constitution actually – no weasel words or tortured logic necessary to make this case – enshrines freedom of religion. That alone should be enough to make any American who truly loves liberty and the vision of the "founding fathers" lose all respect for Rick Santorum as a politician.

But if you're not persuaded by that, just try remembering that he said becoming pregnant by a rapist is a gift from God. Out loud. With a camera on him. And he wants to be president of a country that has women in it.

What does this man have to do to get drummed out of the race?

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