Report: Santorum supported abortion rights early in career

Rick Santorum supported abortion rights for most of his life before he ran for Congress and was a centrist on the issue in his early years in office, according to campaign documents obtained by The Huffington Post.

The tone of the documents and his comments on the subject are a far cry from the culture warrior persona Santorum developed in his years in the Senate, and threaten to undercut his image as a purist conservative. He has long opposed any legalized abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and has attacked rival Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on the same issue.

In 1995, according to The Huffington Post, Santorum told Philadelphia Magazine that he had been "basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress. ... But it had never been something I thought about."

In a position paper from Santorum's 1990 House campaign, he said that he would oppose banning abortion in cases of rape and incest, and that the issue requires "a sensitivity to the genuine concerns of both sides."

The revelations threaten to undercut his recent momentum and hurt him with the social conservatives who make up the core of his political base.

Romney faces a large trust deficit on the issue, as his switch on abortion occurred much more recently and publicly. This will make it difficult for him to attack Santorum on the matter, but it also means Republicans looking for a conservative alternative to Romney will have one more factor to weigh when looking at Santorum's record.

The candidates will debate in Arizona Wednesday night. If the issue comes up how Santorum handles it could affect his standing in the campaign.

More in Presidential races

Bush gives to early state '16 Republicans

Read more »