A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking Santorum


Next up in our occasional look at past misstatements by presidential candidates: Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator announced his candidacy today. We have checked just a few claims from Santorum, who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007.

  • He wrongly claimed in March that "one in three pregnancies end in abortion" in the United States when saying that abortion was to blame for funding problems for Social Security and Medicare. Santorum said on a radio talk show: "The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion." First, fewer than one in four pregnancies ended in abortion in 2008, the most recent statistics available, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which provides the most comprehensive data on abortion. Second, Santorum assumes the population is lower by a number equal to total abortions, but that's not the case. Rebecca Wind, a Guttmacher spokeswoman, told us "most women obtain abortions to postpone childbearing not to prevent it altogether" and an unknown number of pregnancies would have ended in miscarriage.
  • Santorum was also wrong when he said on that radio show that "our birthrate is now below replacement rate for the first time in our history," which, he said, was leading to the collapse of these programs. He was saying that women weren't having children at a high enough rate "for the first time in our history" to maintain a stable population. But the fertility rate in the U.S. was below the replacement rate from 1972 through 2005, and, in fact, the rate was higher than the replacement rate in 2006 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that the U.S. will be below the replacement rate this year. Santorum was also off when he said France's fertility rate was 1.2 or 1.3. The most recent data show a rate of 2.0 children per childbearing woman in that country.
  • Abortion is a popular topic for Santorum, who also was off in 2005 when he claimed in a book that female suicides and crime were "much worse" after Roe v. Wade. Suicides by women actually went down by a third since the Supreme Court decision made abortion legal. Female suicides dropped from 6.5 per 100,000 women in 1973 to 4.06 in 2001, the most recent stats at the time, according to the CDC. As for crime, the Department of Justice's annual survey showed a drop in both property and violent crime since 1973. (For the record, the female suicide rate is still lower than 1973's — 4.8 as of 2007. And property and violent crime have continued to drop.)
  • Back in 2006, the Republican senator misrepresented a political dispute in an ad in which his children said that opponents "criticized us for attending a Pennsylvania public school over the Internet." The criticism wasn't about the children or the school, but about money. Local Pennsylvania school board officials argued that the district should not have paid $73,000 in tuition for Santorum's children since the family was mainly living in Virginia.

See our previous posts on claims by President Obama and Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty.