Rick Santorum: Disabled Children Have So Much to Teach Us

State   Maria Vitale   Oct 14, 2011   |   3:40PM    Harrisburg, PA

Some said it was the best pro-life speech they had ever heard. Fresh from the Presidential campaign trail, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum this week delivered an eloquent, emotional explanation of his pro-life journey during the 2011 Celebrate Life Banquet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation Education Fund.

In Mars, PA, Santorum weaved together vignettes from his personal and professional lives to show how he became a champion of the pro-life cause—a cause he initially shied away from.

Santorum’s first real public foray into the hot-button abortion issue came during the Capitol Hill debate on the outrageous practice of partial-birth abortion. His defense of innocent human life during that discussion would earn him the title “ultra-conservative” in a Blue State known for electing pro-abortion Republicans.

Santorum’s awe-inspiring speech decrying partial-birth abortion saved at least one life, as a woman who had scheduled an abortion decided to cancel it when she saw his impassioned plea on television.

During his recent Pennsylvania appearance, Santorum recalled the crisis of faith he experienced when his wife Karen went to get an ultrasound of their unborn baby Gabriel.

The doctor told the couple, “Your son has a fatal defect and is going to die.”

But Gabriel was born alive.

As Santorum recalls, “For two hours he lived a life that knew only love.”

The couple’s heartbreaking experience with infant loss became the subject of Karen’s book, Letters to Gabriel,  which has helped countless mothers deal with the deaths of their newborn babies.

Santorum faced another crisis when his daughter, Bella, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal condition which results in stillbirth 50 percent of the time. At first, Santorum was emotionally detached from his disabled daughter but, when she faced her own battle for life, he suddenly realized, “This child…can do nothing but love me.”

Santorum observed, “That’s me with the (Heavenly) Father—I am so profoundly disabled in His eyes.”

Against all odds, little Bella recently celebrated her 182nd week of life. According to Santorum, the one-year survival rate for Trisomy 18 is 1 percent.

As Santorum told the Pennsylvania crowd of 500 pro-lifers, “These children have so much to teach us.”

Coincidentally, the Celebrate Life Banquet honored young Chloe Kondrich and her family. Chloe has succeeded in changing people’s perceptions of children with Down syndrome, given her own exceptional accomplishments.

The picture of Senator Santorum posing with Chloe says more than words ever could. His broad grin shows that he has come to realize the worth of every human life, no matter what challenges that life may face.

As Santorum said this week, “If it’s (the pro-life movement’s) not successful, we will lose the soul of the country.”