Santorum on Obama: 'Remarkable for a Black Man' to Support Abortion Rights

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Updated 1:16 p.m.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who is considering a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, invoked President Obama's race during an interview with the conservative CNS News network show "Online with Terry Jeffrey" as a reason the president should oppose abortion.

"The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer -- is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no," Santorum said in the interview, which was posted online Wednesday. "Well if that person, human life is not a person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"

Opponents of abortion in recent years have compared the status of fertilized eggs, even pre-implantation, to that of pre-Civil War slaves who were not considered fully human. For example, materials from the Illinois Right to Life Committee argue that "The court decisions on slavery vs abortion demonstrate an equivalent denial of personhood for two different categories of human beings, slaves and unborn children."

As well, opponents of abortion rights argue that legalized abortion has led to a "black holocaust" and that African Americans ought to be against abortion for this reason.

So while Santorum's words may seem a shocking playing of the race card likely to diminish his already slim shot at winning the GOP crown, they are consistent with the internal narratives of the contemporary abortion rights opposition movement and notable mainly for including a reference to the president, rather than to African Americans more generally.

Santorum himself made that argument midday Thursday in a statement released to CBN's "The Brody File".

"For decades certain human beings were wrongly treated as property and denied liberty in America because they were not considered persons under the constitution," he said. "Today other human beings, the unborn of all races, are also wrongly treated as property and denied the right to life for the same reason; because they are not considered persons under the constitution. I am disappointed that President Obama, who rightfully fights for civil rights, refuses to recognize the civil rights of the unborn in this country."

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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