Father Omar Sanchez Portillo was celebrating his birthday on May 5 when a little baby boy with Down syndrome arrived at his Catholic children’s home in Peru.
Though some see children with disabilities as a burden, Portillo described the little boy as a “special gift from God,” the Catholic News Agency reports.
Portillo is the founder and director of the Home of the Association of the Beatitudes in Lima, which provides care for children and adults with disabilities, according to the report. Right now, the organization provides care for 217 people, including baby Ismael.
The 2-month-old infant has Down syndrome. Portillo said his mother is a 17-year-old who struggles with schizophrenia and alcohol abuse; she abandoned Ismael right after giving birth.
“Apparently she had a difficult pregnancy, she gave birth and left him at the hospital. The Department for Women and Vulnerable Populations knows about our work, the profile of the kids we take in, and called us to receive him. I accepted that responsibility myself,” the priest said.
Portillo said he gave the little boy a name, Ismael, and welcomed him to the children’s home on his 51st birthday.
That day on Facebook, the priest celebrated Ismael’s life, writing: “Thank you Jesus for the gift you have given me for my birthday! You never cease to surprise me, my Jesus. Welcome Ismael! Bringing you from Cusco has been a complete adventure, the first of many we’re going to share together. Chromosome of love, Downs Syndrome.”
Portillo said the work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta inspired him to begin a similar outreach in Peru. He said he also organizes a March for Life every year to show their “commitment to life from conception to natural death.”
Abortion is illegal in Peru, but Portillo said he knows many other, wealthier countries where babies like Ismael frequently are aborted.
In the United States, somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. It is difficult to determine the exact number because the U.S. government does not keep detailed statistics about abortion. In Iceland, the rate is nearly 100 percent, according to a recent CBS News report. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015 and 90 percent in the United Kingdom, according to CBS.
“The world is losing an extraordinary treasure,” Portillo said. “What these people really create is solidarity, leading others to open up their hearts and to be detached, it’s a treasure the world cannot do without. They help us to come out of ourselves.”
Like Portillo, people with Down syndrome and their families across the world have been speaking out about their value. They are alarmed by the astronomical rates of eugenic abortions that target unborn babies with disabilities. And they want people to see the truth – that inside the womb or out, no matter what their abilities, every child is a precious, valuable human being who deserves to be protected.