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Santorum claims abortion has helped put Social Security in peril

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, one of a handful of social conservatives contemplating a presidential bid in 2012, told New Hampshire voters Tuesday morning that he believes Social Security is in financial trouble, and the root cause is abortion.

Responding to a caller while on air with Laconia, N.H., radio station WEZS-AM Tuesday during his 13th visit to the Granite State, Santorum said, “The Social Security system, in my opinion, is a flawed design, period. But, having said that, the design would work a lot better if we had stable demographic trends. … The reason Social Security is in trouble is that we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees.

“Well, a third of of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion — because one-in-three pregnancies end in abortion.”

Since 2005, the abortion rate in the U.S. has held steady at roughly 22 abortions for every 100 pregnancies, meaning that about one-in-five pregnancies end in abortion nationally.

Santorum was led into the premise of Social Security nearing financial demise by a show caller, but seemed to agree with the assessment. According to 2010 annual reports filed by the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, however, the belief that Social Security has either run dry or is nearing immediate depletion is erroneous.

If no changes are made to the existing program, the Trustees estimate that Social Security will be able to pay out 100 percent of benefits through 2024 by “redeeming trust fund assets in amounts less than interest earnings.” If the program begins digging into trust fund assets reserves, Social Security will continue to pay out 100 percent of benefits (expected to be substantially higher due to retiring baby boomers) through 2037. After that point the program could pay roughly 75 percent of all scheduled benefits for about 50 more years, through 2084.

Continuing to voice his opinion that abortion is a core problem impacting Social Security, Santorum said European nations are collapsing because of their diminished birth rates.

“You see all of these countries in horrible situations. Why? Because their birth rate is 1.2 [and] you need 2.1 children per woman of childbearing age to maintain your population. In France and Italy it is 1.2 or 1.3 — and they’re collapsing,” he said.

Santorum believes America is headed in the same direction due to “policies that do not support families and that don’t encourage families to have children and to support them when they do have those children.”

“The second aspect, which is even more important, is the abortion culture in this country,” he said.

In January 2010 France held the highest birth rate of all European Union nations with 1.99 children per woman, which was a slight drop from the 2.0 figure the country held during 2009. Overall, birth rates in France have been steadily increasing since 2005 due to government incentives and policies that allow liberal paid parental work leave, full-time and universal preschool beginning at age three, subsidized child care up to age three, stipends for in-home nannies and monthly childcare allowances that increase with the number of children in the family.

It is worth noting that, contrary to Santorum’s assertion about an “abortion culture” limiting a future workforce, France has had legal on-demand abortion for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy since 1975.

In contrast, government policies in Italy, where the birthrate is roughly 1.2 as quoted by Santorum, have not adapted to the needs of women in the country’s workforce. Italy also offers free legal abortion services to women during the first 90 days of a pregnancy. The move to legalize abortion in the country was made in 1978. Subsequently, abortion rates rose, but quickly peaked, stabilized and began falling. Only three European nations have an incident of abortion rate lower than Italy — Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands — and Italian officials have estimated that roughly one-third of all abortions in their country are performed on foreign women who travel to the country for the service.

Despite these relatively low abortion rates, however, Italy has not experienced an increased birthrate.

One of the existing government programs that Santorum indicated he’d like to see eliminated is the educational system. The current system, he said, shouldn’t be a federal or state government program, but should instead be run by parents. The new system should “revolve around doing what the parents believe is necessary to help their children get the best education possible.”

“The idea that we need a bunch of experts in Washington, D.C. and around the country to tell parents what is best for their children is … well, it doesn’t work,” Santorum said. “It obviously doesn’t work because if you look at the educational system in this country it is failing America. So let’s get back to a motto that works, which is the people who care most about these children having the responsibility and the resources to be able to provide the best education for them. That’s the parents.”

The change that Santorum advocates appears to be in direct contradiction to the policies and experiences in France — such as government-run preschool — which have led to a significantly increased birthrate in that country.

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