By Joleigh Little, Teens for Life and Region Coordinator, Wisconsin Right to Life
Editor’s note. This appeared on page nine of the current digital edition of National Right to Life News, “the pro-life newspaper of record. You can read this story and the issue in its entirety at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsFeb2015.pdf
I truly understand that “everyone we meet is fighting a battle” and agree with the admonition to “be kind.” But sometimes…
Sometimes it’s just too difficult to think kind thoughts at all. Take, for instance, the recent stories – one about a family who aborted their baby because an ultrasound showed their child was missing a limb. Or another one about the mom who wrote to a woman with spina bifida, telling her that she had just aborted a child who had spina bifida, and was wondering if the woman could give her some advice on how to avoid conceiving another child with spina bifida. (I swear I’m not making this up. Some people’s lack of tact is almost enough to make your brain explode.)
So it would seem to make sense that I would read the story “Wife divorced husband because he wanted to keep son born with Down Syndrome” and instantly turn into a righteously angry judgmental monster. (Because, just keeping it real here, I can. It’s a struggle sometimes.)
But that headline just made me sad. I instantly wondered if the story was about a family that didn’t live here in the U.S. The family lives in Armenia. (Mind you, here in our “enlightened” nation, we also target for abortion children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome and other “differences” so I clearly think we have work to do on our own national attitude.)
Here’s what I know. In some countries, children with special needs are seen as devastating tragedies, or even “curses” the only solution for which is to place the child in an orphanage and “start over.” Case in point: while searching for my second daughter, I read many medical files of waiting children – children who are in orphanages and desperately need a family to call their own.
One file that stood out was that of a beautiful little girl who happened to be born with an extra chromosome. (Which, for the record, she was rocking with a very classy amount of sass, as was evident from her pictures and the comments in her file.) I was more than a little shocked to learn that both of her parents were medical doctors. And yet they relinquished her at birth.
Her birth country is notorious (as are most in that region) for the high number of children with special needs who are housed in orphanages and whose only hope is international adoption – because almost no one in their own society sees them as having any value.
So I was not at all surprised to read that this woman, from Armenia and currently living in Armenia, rejected her son outright – even to the point of divorcing the father of her child – to avoid the stigma that goes with bearing a child who isn’t “perfect” in the eyes of her society.
What did surprise me (in the best way possible) was that, instead of ending up institutionalized, this little boy – Leo – is being raised by his courageous and now single father. While it should be instinctual to choose your child over anyone else, apparently it’s not always. For that reason, this dad deserves a lot of respect – and it seems he’s getting it, if you can judge by the amount of money raised to help him stay home with and raise Leo for the first year of his life. (So much money was raised, in fact, that Samuel Forrest, has stated a portion will be used to help fund the only orphanage in his son’s birth country that regularly takes in children born with Down syndrome.)
Talk about paying it forward! But for the courage of this man, a father in every sense of the word, that little boy – perfect in every way because he is perfectly himself – could and would have been raised in an orphanage.
Like so very many others are.
The lesson in this for all of us? We need to work hard. We need to educate, to advocate and to pray that attitudes around the world will change to view children with special needs as valuable. But beyond that, we need to be open to the only viable immediate solution to the thousands of children with special needs who are languishing in orphanages.
We who are pro-life need to understand that our children might not only be the ones who are born to us. Our children could very well be living on the other side of the ocean, or even in a hospital nursery right here in America.
Samuel Forrest made the right choice. He chose his son. But for the thousands and even hundreds of thousands of children – each beautiful and unique in their own way – who are born in places or under circumstances that result in their being relinquished by their birth families, the only hope is adoption.
You could be that hope.
And, because I can’t stand to leave anything with a melancholy ending, I want to share two things.
The first is the story of a little boy diagnosed in utero with spina bifida, being carried by a mom who is HIV+ and can’t care for him. An abortion clinic in her home state had offered to do her late term abortion for free and gave her a deadline. She contacted an organization known for helping moms in just such situations, and they took to social media looking for a family. Within 12 hours they had so many families wanting to be this little boy’s forever, that they had to remove their post from Facebook.
And that other little girl I mentioned? I’m more than pleased to report that she’s just fine, she’s home with her new American family, and she is (in typical orphanage diva fashion – something with which I am all too familiar) creating just enough sass to keep them on their toes.