Rep. Bob Barrett relies on Rick Santorum for abortion advice

Categories: Politics
Rep. Bob Barrett.jpg
Rep. Bob Barrett.
A House committee has just passed a bill outlawing abortion after 20 weeks, one of nine anti-abortion measures currently under consideration in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Abortions like these are rare in Minnesota; about one-half of 1 percent of the total each year. Alicia Hempl had one such abortion, and she recently testified before a House committee about why she believes the procedure needs to remain safe and legal.

Republican state Rep. Bob Barrett listened politely. But his response illustrates the chasm between those who insist abortion should remain a decision made by a woman and her doctor, and those who don't.

Hempl's doctor discovered last summer that her fetus carried a devastating chromosome abnormality called Trisomy 18. All available medical data indicated that her fetus stood a 50 percent chance of being stillborn, and a very high probability of not surviving a full year of life--a life that would have been filled with pain, along with severe physical and mental handicaps.

Her diagnosis fell outside H.F.936's proposed 20-week window. "With this proposed bill I would have not been able to save my baby from the pain she would have endured for hours, maybe days, and possibly even months until she died," Hempl said.


"I'm not even going to try and talk about the term you use," Barrett said when she was through. "It's an area I don't think a lot of us even know about."

"These babies don't live," she said.

But Barrett plowed ahead anyway, contradicting Hempl by citing a speech by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, an outspoken foe of abortion rights.

"Santorum shared his story about a child he had with that exact, or similar condition," Barrett said. "And he opened my eyes to the fact that these children are born, and they do live a life. And they provide love, and joy and support, and they are part of a family. And you obviously made the choice you did."

(Isabella Santorum was born with Trisomy 18 in 2008. Earlier, in 1996, Karen Santorum gave birth to a baby that her doctors predicted would not survive because of a physical abnormality in the womb. The baby died a few hours later, but the couple brought the dead baby home, introduced it to their children as "your brother Gabriel" and then spent the night with the body.)


Barrett doesn't directly criticize Hempl. But he doesn't want her and others like her to be able to make her own medical decisions.

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