Guest Blogger Emily Nowak
On October 11, 1996, two baby boys, surrounded by loving parents and three adoring older siblings, lay in their mother's arms. One was in Pennsylvania, and one was in Maryland. One was just minutes old; the other was nine months old. Both boys were born early, were tiny, and weak....and each of their lungs were failing.
Gabriel Michael, whose name means "strength of God”, died two hours later. Eli, "high and ascended," died three weeks after that. Both families were affected by the death of their adored baby boys, and it led them on a crusade to protect other babies--babies who are never given a chance to live because they are killed by their own mothers. I know that both families recognized that each abortion is a slap in the face of any mother, father, sister, and brother who would do anything to be able to get their precious baby back. I know this personally because Gabriel's father is pro-life senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and Eli is my little brother.
Because of Gabriel's death, his mother, Karen Santorum wrote and published a series of letters to her little boy. They are her thoughts--her rants, her tears, her love, and her hurt. But the book also deals specifically with abortion. At the time, Senator Santorum was trying to get a ban on partial birth abortion passed. Opposition mocked him--he wasn't a woman, he didn't understand. But he did understand-Gabriel was born to Karen and Rick dying, but his condition was not a surprise. They knew from nineteen weeks that their baby (and their family) was going to suffer. They also knew that their baby would experience the love of two parents, three siblings, and a huge extended family. Karen's touching letters show how important their baby was to them--Gabriel needed them, and maybe even more, they needed him.
Karen writes, "Gabriel, I wish that everyone who will face the circumstances that we did might know how much that time with you meant to us. As emotional as it was, fighting for your life and having whatever time we could with you meant everything to your Daddy and me. It was not only being able to be there for you, loving and caring for you, but it was also acknowledging you as a child of God and as a person who lived and died. ...how could parents give up an opportunity for love, no matter how brief, in exchange for such violence?" She writes that she knows that women go through with abortions because they are deceived. They do not know the truth. They honestly believe there is no other way. She continues, "There is another way. We know, because we chose it."
Fast forward a few years. The Santorums had several more children, including Bella. Bella is three years old now. Doctors told her parents they'd be lucky if she lived to a year. Bella is like every other three year old--her daddy's little girl, the light of her family's world, beautiful, joyful, and full of life. She also should have been aborted, according to most of society. But Rick Santorum and his wife are living what they believe so strongly about, just as my family, continued our own fight against abortion in part because of Stephen and Lila, my two siblings with Down Syndrome.
Letters to Gabriel and the Santorum family’s story, like the stories of thousands people with children with special needs, brings a new perspective to the abortion debate. This book focuses on the two people that matter most in this issue--the child, and the mother. Karen Santorum makes it very clear that both the mother and child deserve a chance to be loved and to love--because love is from God, and He created it for all of us.
The book also brings new light to Santorum's campaign. There is no doubt where he stands on the issue that matters the most. It illustrates how important it is to him to end abortion.
When Santorum's fight to ban partial birth abortion failed, he spoke sadly of his attempt, "We would be deafened by the cries of the children who are not here to cry because of this procedure." The Washington Post ran an article detailing what happened.
“Senator Rick Santorum turned to face the opposition and in a high, pleading voice cried out, 'Where do we draw the line....that is not a blob of tissue. It is a baby. It's a baby.' And then, impossibly, in an already hushed gallery, in one of those moments when the floor of the Senate looks like a stage set, with its small wooden desks somehow too small for the matters at hand, the cry of a baby pierced the room, echoing across the chambers from an outside hallway. No one mentioned the cry, but for a few seconds, no one spoke at all."
Karen Santorum wrote in Letters to Gabriel, "A coincidence? Perhaps...a visitor's baby was crying just as the door to the floor of the Senate was opened, then closed. Or maybe...it was a cry from the son whose voice we never heard, but whose life has forever changed ours."
Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps that cry was the cry of Gabriel. Perhaps it was the cry of Eli. Perhaps it was the cry of thousands of babies that were taken from mothers who loved them, who were horrified that other mothers would choose that loss for themselves. Perhaps it is the cry of the Bella's, the Stephen's, and Lila's that "should have been aborted." Perhaps it is the cry of the hundreds of babies who are consciously slaughtered every day in America.
One thing is for certain--Rick and Karen Santorum and other families who have lost a child don't just see it as a cry of mourning. It is a rally cry; a battle cry to fight against abortion. It is the cry, over fifteen years later, behind Santorum's' campaign for the presidency--because he personally understands what really matters for America.