Despicable: Yahoo! News Contributor Exploits Bella Santorum's Illness to Attack Rick Santorum

Update: A former Santorum colleague at EPPC responds. [see bottom of post]

Yahoo! News contributor Andrew Riggio yesterday evening cynically used the occasion of Bella Santorum's hospitalization and her father's accompanying temporary suspension of his presidential campaign to attack the pro-life conservative who opposes taxpayer-financed embryonic stem-cell research:

While it is always tragic for a parent to face losing a child, the situation highlights a political issue: Santorum's hypocrisy on health care, abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Santorum's campaign website discusses his views on these matters. He is emphatically against a woman's right to control her own body in reproductive matters and is adamantly opposed to embryonic stem cell research. He is against a single-payer national health care system provided to all citizens. He opposes the first two on religious grounds on the third for reasons of political dogma.

With no awareness of how ghoulish his commentary and its timing was, Riggio continued his rehash of predictable, warmed-over leftist talking points that also included a factual error:

It's also easier for him to oppose it because he has the best health care in America available to him and his family -- provided at taxpayer expense, no less. He never had to consider whether care for a terminally ill child would destroy his family financially.

Perhaps Riggio is under the impression that Santorum is on the public payroll and receives the health care that U.S. senators do, when in fact he's a former senator who worked for the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) shortly after leaving the Senate in 2007 until June of last year.

Riggio continued by suggesting Santorum's experience with caring for a "terminally ill child" should push him both into favoring single-payer government-run health care and into favoring life-destroying embryonic stem cell research and attacking him as a heartless bastard for not holding those views:

Unless the U.S. enacts a national health care plan most families will never be able to afford the care needed for a child with Trisomy 18. Santorum's family will never lack for health care or face crippling medical debt -- but as far as he's concerned it's fine for your family to have those problems.

Santorum's opposition to embryonic stem cell research is ludicrous for two reasons. First, such research involves the collection of cells from a blastocyst, a blob of about 150 cells so small the human eye cannot detect it, according to the National Institute for Health. Second, such research could save the lives of his daughter and countless others suffering from her condition. It's despicable for him to fight against the best possible hope for a cure to the very condition killing his child.

There's someone despicable in all this, Mr. Riggio. You just need to look into the mirror to find him.

Update [12:55 p.m. EST]: Adam Keiper, editor of The New Atlantist, a publication of EPPC, emailed me the following item to add as a factual critique of Riggio's Yahoo! column:

Riggio writes that embryonic stem cell research “could save the lives of his daughter and countless others suffering from her condition.” That is completely false. Bella Santorum has Trisomy 18, which, like Down syndrome, is a chromosomal condition. No one thinks that stem cell research (whether using embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells) has any potential to treat chromosomal conditions. We just published a major report on stem cell research in The New Atlantis and were scrupulously evenhanded about describing the potential of stem cells (see here). The fact that Riggio accuses Senator Santorum of hypocrisy on this question is illogical, ill-informed, and malicious. Thanks for your post on this.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters