Rick Santorum may never get past the string of presidential primaries that are leading up to the Republican convention.
But with the former Pennsylvania senator’s profile now much higher than it has ever been, he has already attained a “bully pulpit” of sorts for the values that matter most to him and his Catholic family.
While we would never wish the burden of serious illness on any family, the life of 3-year-old Isabella Maria Santorum has turned out to be a blessing for all of us.
The Santorums already knew her life was precious and full of potential — even when they received the devastating news shortly after Bella’s birth that she had Trisomy 18, a syndrome that can cause heart defects, failure to grow normally and other problems. Few such children live beyond a year. The couple had already lost a son shortly after he was born. During that pregnancy they had rejected suggestions of abortion because he too had a serious defect.
When Bella was born, they again encountered an attitude in the medical world that contrasted with the hope they had as parents. Rather than just let her die, the Santorums sought out doctors who would work to keep her alive. Some families would not have come this far. Sometimes the diagnosis — for Trisomy 18 or less serious Down syndrome — comes before birth, and some families decide to avoid any further challenges, sadly, by aborting the child.
But with all the Santorums have on their plate — they have six other children — they made the decision to lovingly accept whatever Bella needed. For children with such a syndrome, care can be constant.
Most recently, Santorum canceled several campaign appearances prior to the crucial Florida primary because Bella was hospitalized for pneumonia. The candidate told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that, “in many respects, one of the reasons I’m out here is because, you know, fighting for little kids like Bella, who, in many respects are, I think, are going to be left behind — whether it’s Obamacare or whether it’s a system where government is going to start to evaluate people not based on who they are or what they are, but what they can do.”
A similar case arose shortly thereafter, in which a 3-year-old named Mia Rivera was allegedly turned down for a crucial kidney transplant because, according to her mother, the doctor said the girl is “retarded.”
That would seem to confirm Santorum’s concern that people are being deemed unworthy of life because they can’t do certain things.
It’s hard to say how far Santorum will get in his quest for president. But one can only dream of a White House where the first family sets an example of welcoming life.
As Santorum told an audience in Charleston, S.C., in reference to Bella, “She is a font of love. And she made me understand that that’s how the Father looks at me. I’m disabled and unable to ‘do’ anything for him — except love him. And he loves me unconditionally.”