“Let Yourself be Loved: Big Lessons from a Little Life”: Embracing a child who has been diagnosed in utero with a life-limiting condition

By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

John Paul Raphael Leon lived only a short time on planet earth. Yet his impact is still felt in his family and in all those who will read about him in the breathtakingly beautiful book, “Let Yourself be Loved: Big Lessons from a Little Life.”

 I had the privilege and honor of meeting his courageous mother, Elizabeth Leon, via videoconference for a podcast I recently co-hosted. A genetic test revealed in utero that chances were that her son had a condition called Trisomy 18.

 In her powerful book, Elizabeth writes about reading about babies with the chromosomal abnormality when she was pregnant with John Paul Raphael:

 “I read about babies who died in the womb. Babies who died during delivery. Babies who lived only minutes. Babies who needed immediate surgery then died…”

 Yet, Elizabeth embraced her son’s life—limited though it was. She turned down offers to abort her child based on genetic testing.

Elizabeth writes with poignancy of the pain of receiving a dire prenatal diagnosis. Yet she also chronicles the love her family showed to this child whose life span covered only twenty-eight hours and ten minutes.

Fear and pressure from medical professionals can drive a woman to abort a child who has been diagnosed in utero with a life-limiting condition. Elizabeth’s incredible witness shows us that conquering fear and embracing life can bring a great deal of strength and healing to a family. 

The road may not be easy, but the rewards are many when one stands up for life.