This week Rick and Karen Santorum released Bella’s Gift, a book about their daughter Isabella Marie and what having a special-needs child has done for their lives. Theirs is a tale of perseverance, of patience, and of a lesson in love that could only have been taught by an incredible little girl.
Bella was born with a rare genetic disorder — Trisomy 18 — that is almost always fatal. Those children who do survive long enough to be born rarely make it to their first birthday. In the hospital, the doctors told the Santorums that they shouldn’t grow attached to their daughter as she struggled for life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Bella’s survival was statistically impossible. The Santorums were told there was no hope.
Yet instead of choosing despair, Rick and Karen chose something that their doctors couldn’t measure — love. They chose to love Bella and be loved by her while they could, cherishing her life as the gift it was rather than mourning what it might never be.
What they learned by loving Bella would change their lives in ways they could never imagine. They were regularly told by doctors to let go of their baby, that there was little point given her diagnosis, yet every day they fought for the dignity of her life, fought for her humanity, fought for their right to love her.
The Santorums fought for their daughter because they saw in real time what so many other Americans believe — that all life is precious and worthy. Citizens United believes that instead of embracing a culture that denies the beauty of human beings and the idea that every life has worth and meaning, we need to adopt a culture that celebrates the gift of life.
Bella’s is a lesson that America needs to learn and ,Bella’s Gift is a book that every American should read. It is my hope that her story will bring the cause of life one step closer to becoming a culture that changes the face of America. Untold lives depend on this national change of heart.
Children like Bella are not a burden to be discarded or a tragedy to be mourned. They are human beings to be valued, cherished, and loved. If Bella Santorum can teach us that lesson, we as a country will have a much brighter future.