The Anti-Fornication, Anti-Abortion Wife of Rick Santorum Lived Very Differently in Her 20s

What Women Really Think
Jan. 17 2012 5:01 PM

Karen Santorum's Impure Youth

Karen and Rick Santorum.
Rick Santorum talks with his wife Karen Santorum

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images.

Rick and Karen Santorum really take the cake in the "do as I say, not as I do" department. Building on earlier revelations that the Santorums themselves considered abortion for health reasons while Rick Santorum worked diligently to deny that right to others is the new revelation that Karen Santorum spent most of her 20s living with her much-older boyfriend out of wedlock. Oh yeah, and that boyfriend was an outspoken abortion provider, the kind of person her husband would very much like to throw in jail.

The detail in this story that seems to be grossing people out the most is that Karen, whose last name was Garver when she was living openly as the kind of fornicator she and her husband now claim is so sinful the government should work against you, was actually delivered by her boyfriend Tom Allen when she was born in 1960. I'm from a small town, so that probably doesn't have the effect on me that it does on people who aren't used to some of the uncomfortably close romantic entanglements people can get in. That this detail captures people's attention suggests that we've become a little too inured to the hypocrisy of right wingers who carry on---and Rick Santorum is the worst---about how the government should restrict contraception access and teach abstinence-only because sex outside of marriage is sinful and how abortion providers should be subject to criminal penalties. It's worth noting that when it comes to the black markets of the sort that conservatives wish to create around abortion, girlfriends and partners often get caught up in police stings, so if the laws the Santorums want were in place back then, it may not just have been Dr. Allen in danger but also a young Karen Garver. But even if not, since she lived with him for so long, she basically benefitted materially from "abortion money" he earned providing abortions, money that helped pay for her housing, if nothing else. 

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This entire story reveals why the collapse between personal belief and policy advocacy is making this country collectively stupider by the minute. The defense of the Santorums in light of Karen's past as the lover of an abortion provider is to brush it off and say people's beliefs change. And sure, she has every right to feel that her past was a mistake and to seek forgiveness from her God for her fornicating ways. The problem, of course, is that Karen and Rick Santorum want to take away the rights of others to do as they did and seek their own paths. They have every right to preach their religious dogma wherever they want. The problem is that Santorum continues to advocate for writing his and his wife's strange religious beliefs into law, even as they themselves weren't prepared as young people to pay the legal consequences for not adhering to their particular faith. It's a shame that such a fuss is being made over Karen Santorum's past. In a sane world, we'd be allowed to have our private lives be private. But since the Santorums want to strip you of your right to sexual privacy in order to have the government micromanage your sex lives, it's high time she be held to the standard she wants for you. After all, she's benefitted long enough from the freedoms that she and her husband want to take away from everyone else. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.