Santorum stands by prenatal screening opposition

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stood by comments he made Saturday opposing prenatal testing, saying it leads to selective abortions, and he said the president is "continuing" policies that encourage such abortions.

CBS News "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer asked the former Pennsylvania Senator to respond to comments Santorum made in Ohio Saturday where he said President Obama required free prenatal testing in the health care law "because it ends up in more abortions" which "cull[s] the ranks of the disabled in our society."

Santorum told Schieffer that the policy is the "continuation" of the president's support of aborting disabled fetuses. 

"The president has a very bad record on the issue of abortion and children who are disabled who are in the womb," Santorum said. "I think this simply is a continuation of that idea."

Santorum said he is talking specifically about amniocentesis, an invasive test where amniotic fluid is taken from the womb. He said the procedure "actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies of a child in the womb. In many cases and in fact most cases, physicians recommend, particularly if there's a problem, recommend abortion. . . .

"Yes, prenatal testing, amniocentesis does in fact result more often than not in abortion. That is a fact," Santorum said.

" I know what I'm talking about here," Santorum said. (Santorum's daughter was born with the genetic disorder trisomy. Another of his children died two hours after birth.)

Women most likely to have the invasive test are 35 or older or have a predisposition of genetic disease.

While miscarriage is a stated risk of the invasive procedure, a 2006 study of California women by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology indicates that miscarriage rates do not increase after the test is performed, compared to expectant mothers who do not have amniocentesis.

However, other studies indicate up to 90 percent of fetuses with genetic abnormalities (like Down Syndrome) are aborted.

Despite the fact that sonograms and blood tests are also capable of detecting abnormalities in pregnancies, Santorum said he feels sonograms and "all sorts of prenatal testing" are acceptable, and if he were an employer, he would provide it in his health insurance, but he feels differently about amniocentesis.

"People have the right to do it, but to have the government force people to provide it free, to me, has... is a bit loaded," Santorum told Schieffer.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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