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Santorum Reveals He Withheld Love From Disabled Daughter

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    (Photo: Reuters / Sean Gardner)
    In this file photo, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 17, 2011.
By Paul Stanley, Christian Post Reporter
November 21, 2011|2:57 pm

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum sat alongside five of his fellow Republican presidential candidates at the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, and went into unchartered territory when he expressed painful regret of not fully embracing his youngest daughter’s disability.

Santorum, known for his staunch pro-life and pro-family positions, has been struggling to grab the attention of GOP voters outside of his base of evangelical voters. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 at 32 years of age, Santorum quickly carved a niche as a fiscal and social conservative. In 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate and was given virtually no chance of winning, but he prevailed by taking advantage of the conservative groundswell – thanks in large part to then House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America.

As a member of the U.S. Senate, he was the prime sponsor behind the partial-birth abortion bill, was a strong advocate for traditional marriage, and led the fight to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

But what he had to deal with after leaving office was coming to terms with how to handle his daughter’s disability – seeing her as less of a person than his six healthy children.

Once he had settled into private life after losing his bid for re-election in 2005, he and his wife, Karen, soon learned they were expecting their seventh child. A few weeks before the due date, they learned their newborn daughter had what was often a deadly genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18. Over 90 percent of the children born with this disorder die within weeks of birth.

“After I left the Senate, Karen and I were trying for another child … and we discovered joyfully we were expecting another child and learned toward the end of the pregnancy there might be some problems,” Santorum told those gathered at the Des Moines event. “Long story short – Karen delivered Isabella Marie early and we discovered she had Trisomy 18. Trisomy 21 is Downs Syndrome and Trisomy 18 is far worse.”

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“We decided to do everything we could. She was our daughter and we were going to help her,” Santorum said as he began to fight back tears. “The doctor said our child was going to die of respiratory failure … you have to learn to let go the doctor told us.”

The couple took Bella home after ten weeks in the hospital but were given little hope she would survive for very long. After she stopped breathing one day, they rushed her to a nearby hospital in an effort to stabilize her breathing.

“We went to the hospital and there she was lying on the table, about 5 months of age,” said Santorum. “As she was lying on the emergency room table, I reached out and held her little finger. For the 5 months leading up to this I was the rock in the house … I (had) decided the best thing I could do was treat her differently,” said Santorum, now crying.

“To not love her, like I did, because it wouldn’t hurt as much if I lost her. I remember holding that finger, looking at her and realizing what I had done. I had been exactly what I had said … that I had fought against at the partial birth abortion argument. I had seen her as less of a person because of her disability. I prayed at that moment please, please let her live. I promise I will do everything to commit to her and every child like her. She made it. One of the reasons I am here tonight is because of Obamacare and to fight for kids with disabilities.”

“She [Bella] is now 3 and a half years of age and the reason she’s not here tonight is she’s not doing well and my wife Karen is with her – so please say a little prayer for her,” requested the proud father.

Santorum has spent more days in Iowa during this presidential cycle than any of the other candidates – 77 days to be exact. In that short time period, he has been in 99 counties and attended 221 events, but only rarely has he broken above 5 percent in national polls. However, he continues to fight for pro-family values and is banking on evangelical voters in Iowa and South Carolina to breathe life into his campaign.

 

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