As Rick Santorum Drops Out, I Feel His Family’s Pain—But I’m Glad to See Him Go

By NICK CHILES

As I watched Rick Santorum’s announcement that he was dropping out of the Republican presidential primary, I was of two minds: I was sorry that his daughter’s health was making a presidential run difficult for him, but I was also relieved to see him walk off the stage with the most uncharitable, meanest, cruelest, most radical, most intrusive, least Christ-like form of Christianity I’ve ever seen.

With his hand on his Bible and his eye on the cross, Santorum was espousing positions and programs that would set American families, women and children back decades and put the government in the role of the vagina and womb police. It was a dangerous political game, using his faith as a cover as he attempted to make his own extreme beliefs the law of the land. Not only was he blasting away at birth control, gays, women and abortion, the man actually came out against college educations. Hadn’t we adjudicated that one a long time ago—we do still believe that every American has the right to strive for a college education, even black people and the poor, right? This man even said he doesn’t think Americans have a constitutional right to privacy—which of course makes it easier to invade our bedrooms.

But beyond his crazy politics and his questionable Christianity, I followed Santorum’s personal story closely because I could identify with the struggles his family is enduring with their three-year-old daughter, Isabella, who has Trisomy 18.

This coming July, it will be five years since my family lost my darling little niece, Zenzele, who died at the age of 11 after her brave and inspirational 11-year fight with Trisomy 18.

Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, is a birth defect that occurs when a third chromosome attaches to the 18th chromosomal pair. (With Down’s Syndrome, a better known defect, the third chromosome is attached to the 21st pair.) Though Trisomy 18 is actually fairly common (it occurs in one out of about every 5,000 pregnancies), it isn’t as well-known as Down’s Syndrome because most Trisomy 18 babies never even make it past the first week of life. Only about 8% of Trisomy infants survive longer than a year,and just one percent of children live to age 10.

My niece, my sister’s daughter, made it to age 11, which was considered a minor medical miracle. She was never able to walk or to talk, but she was the most joyful little girl I’ve ever been around. She literally changed our entire family and the way we thought about the sanctity of life. No, she wasn’t perfect, but she was wonderful and gleeful and every moment around her made our hearts sing. Though I would never intrude on a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wanted to bring a Trisomy baby to full term, being around Zenzele made me realize that we have no right to insist that every human life must be perfect in order to be delivered to us. We called her our angel, because it did sometimes feel like God had let us borrow her for 11 years to grant us a new perspective on the potential beauty of imperfection.

Having lived through my niece’s 11 years, I can understand Rick Santorum’s opposition to the idea that someone be allowed to abort babies with birth defects, just because they’re not perfect. But I also believe very strongly in a woman’s right to choose—and that my own beliefs should have no bearing on what happens in the wombs of strangers.

So now that Santorum has left the presidential race (coincidentally just in time to escape embarrassing defeat in Pennsylvania, his home state), I pray that the Santorum family has many more enjoyable years with Bella and that she blesses them the way Zenzele blessed my family. But although I am happy to see the man step away from the stage, I know we can’t rest easy. There are many other radical folks besides Santorum floating around out there, capitalizing on American fear, selling the country easy and illogical answers to very difficult problems. We can’t let down our guard, not even for a moment.

 RELATED POSTS:

1. All Up In Our Uteruses: Rick Santorum Says No To Prenatal Testing, Virginia Says Yes To Vaginal Probes
2. Black Women Speak Up! Tell Congress To Stay Out Of Our Wombs
3. Free Contraception And PreNatal Care: A Victory For Women’s Reproductive Health
4. Teen Girls Can Suck It: No Morning-After Pill Without Doc’s Consent

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

One Comment

  1. My heart goes out to his daughter but I had to give God praise when I heard he dropped out the race. We’re trying to move forward and Rick was trying to take us back to before we as Black people had rights. I hope that his run for the presidency has opened a lot of people’s eyes and proves that we need to pay attention to what these candidates are trying to sell us!

Leave a Reply