Michael Hichborn, American Life League

‘God has answered’: How my daughter got her name

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn
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Note: Michael Hichborn is the director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

July 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - June 29th was our 10th wedding anniversary, and as my wife Alyssa and I drove home, the intense storm and downed trees that met us along the way reminded us of the intense drama of just 17 months ago.

In December of 2010, Alyssa was eight months pregnant with our fourth child.  One quiet evening, as we were cleaning up after dinner, our 5-year-old daughter, Sonya, was practicing writing her letters.  As we were discussing names for the new baby, Sonya would interrupt by handing Alyssa a sheet of paper filled with scribbled letters and ask, “What does this say, Mommy.”  She had been doing this for weeks, and normally the letters spelled nothing more than “pbthfsa,” or some such nonsense.  But on this particular evening, what she handed my wife was “Elia.”  We thought it sounded like a name, and suggested that perhaps if it held some meaning, we might consider naming the baby “Elia.”  Little did we know how prophetic this event would soon become.

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On January 27th, our new little girl made her grand entrance into the world.  With a healthy new baby, and a wonderful home-birth experience, we could never have suspected what was about to happen.  Less than 36 hours after delivery, Alyssa woke me up, screaming in agony with intense pains in her lower right back.  Of course, we thought it was nothing more than post-delivery spasms, so I did everything I could to make her comfortable, and stayed up most of the night tending to her and helping her as much as I was able.  That morning, I called the midwives to ask them to see her, and when they arrived, they told me that something was wrong and I needed to take her to the emergency room.

On this day, everything seemed to go from bad to worse.  When we arrived at the emergency room, the triage nurse attempted to take her vitals, but couldn’t get her blood pressure.  Needless to say, it was a matter of minutes before they set her up in a room, and then whisked her away for an MRI.  As I nervously waited to hear from a doctor what was wrong, I called for a priest to come anoint her.  When he arrived, I saw my first miracle that day.

When Alyssa came back from the MRI, her vital signs continued to crash.  Her blood pressure was dropping, her temperature was falling, her heart rate was rapidly increasing, and her color was draining.  The on-duty doctor, who was overly perky and lacking in answers, finally told me that they detected a lot of blood around her kidney and her bladder, but couldn’t find the cause.  And while Dr. Perky was attempting to explain the possibilities to me, Fr. Bresnahan came into the room, and gave Alyssa the Church’s sacrament for the sick and dying, and then Holy Communion.  From that moment on, though the situation got much worse, I never saw her vitals dip below where they were.  I am thoroughly convinced that our Blessed Lord, through the ministry of His Holy Church, preserved her life though these powerful sacraments.

Shortly after her anointing, a specialist introduced himself to me, and explained that Alyssa had a ruptured aneurysm in her kidney.  We discussed options, and he suggested an arthroscopic procedure that would effectively seal the artery going into her kidney.  She was going to lose the kidney whether they took it out, or sealed the artery, so I agreed to go along with the less traumatic approach.

By this point, family and friends had put out the call to prayer, which had reached thousands of people across the country.  E-mail prayer chains through our Christendom College alumni association, Facebook posts, and a network of family and friend e-mail chains had reached every state in the country, several convents, and countless priests.

Alyssa was scheduled for surgery at around 4:00, which meant I would have about an hour to run to the house, check on the kids, take a shower, and pick up some supplies.  When I got back to the hospital, I got a call from the doctor that there were some unforeseen complications.  My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and the blood drained from my face as he explained that she suffered a sudden vascular spasm, which prevented them from completing the procedure, and from removing the arthroscopic line they ran through an artery in her leg.  I asked him what this meant, and he said that they hadn’t stopped the internal bleeding, and were concerned that she now might lose her leg.

All of a sudden, I was all alone in a room full of people.  The doctors were doing what they could, but no amount of sympathy from family or friends could fill the massive void growing in my heart.  My children were unaware that anything was wrong, and all I could think of was how I would have to go home to tell them that Mommy isn’t ever coming home again.  I locked myself in a bathroom for a few minutes and wept.  And then I prayed.  I prayed like I had never prayed in my life.  On my knees, I thought of Christ’s passion.  As I remembered Jesus’ words, “I make all things new,” I begged him to make my wife new.

When I saw Alyssa again after the failed procedure, she never complained, but only apologized for how much she had inconvenienced me.  She told me about the pain she was in, but also how she thought of so many people that were suffering worse than she was.  She told me about someone she knew who was suffering terribly, and said that she would offer her suffering up for that woman.  Selfishly, I wished I could trade places with Alyssa because the pain in my heart was unbearable.

As the day waned on, her condition continued to deteriorate.  I consulted with the surgeon, and we decided that he had to go in to remove the kidney.  I walked my wife to the operating room and gave her a kiss.  I really didn’t have anything to say, but to tell her that I loved her, and she chastised me for “doing that thing again.”  I asked her what she meant, and she said, “you know, that thing where you worry so much when you know that everything will go according to God’s plan.”  I gave her another kiss, they wheeled her into the operating room, and I sank to my knees.

For what seemed like an eternity, family and friends joined me in the waiting room, where we prayed the Rosary on our knees.  About half-way through the Sorrowful mysteries, a hospital chaplain came in to see me.  He assured me that he had no news of the operation, but was only there to talk or pray with me.  I told him that we were praying a Rosary, and though he was a protestant chaplain, he joined us on our knees, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the end of every decade.

Fourteen units of blood, a removed kidney, and the longest two hours of my life later, and the doctor entered the waiting room to tell me that the operation was a success, and all of her vitals had returned to normal.  He couldn’t account for the success of the operation because when he looked, he said her kidney had completely dissolved.  Instantly, the room filled with a celebration of tears, hugs, and smiles.  A second miracle had occurred.

But the most remarkable thing about this ordeal comes back to our new baby’s name.  For each of our children, we chose names with strong Catholic significance.  Brendan Xavier after the great navigator saint, and the powerful Jesuit missionary; Sonya Elaine, whose two names mean wisdom and light; Sebastian Alexander, after two great martyrs, one a soldier and the other a pope.  We had settled on our baby’s first name, Tatiana, after the Russian patroness of students, but still wondered about her middle name.  But her middle name had to be Elia, because when we looked it up that night in December, we found that it was a Hebrew word which means, “God has answered.”  God had answered, indeed.

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Kermit Gosnell considers himself a ‘martyr’: Gosnell filmmakers

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By Ben Johnson

HUNGTINGDON, PA, May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Spending life in prison without parole for murdering several newborn babies, Kermit Gosnell spends his days listening to music and thinking of himself as a “martyr,” according to the makers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell film.

Producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, and Magdalena Segeida interviewed Gosnell for hours at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania – and they came away saying the doctor is remorseless, self-pitying, and enjoying far more liberty than they thought would be granted to a mass murderer.

The producers visited the central Pennsylvania penitentiary and spoke to the the late-term abortionist up-close – a little too close, they say. McElhinney said Gosnell sat uncomfortably close to her throughout the multihour session.

“We have just come back from Pennsylvania where we were the first journalists to sit down in prison to interview Gosnell,” the producers said in a mass email to their supporters. “The two hours we spent interviewing the former abortion doctor were two of the most disturbing hours of our journalistic careers.”

“The interview was one of the creepiest we have ever conducted,” the mass email continued.

Gosnell, they recounted, “is thought to have murdered hundreds if not thousands of babies in a 30 year killing spree.” Yet he has access to music, a subject he discussed at length. At one point, McElhinney said, Gosnell burst out into song.

Ann McElhinney told The Daily Signal, “I’m amazed at how pleasant his life is, the freedoms he has.”

Far from having repented of his crimes, Gosnell continues to justify his actions, they said.

“In his own version of the story, he’s a martyr – he’s part of a hounded class,” McElhinney said.

That assessment corroborates the views of others who interviewed the onetime proprietor of the “house of horrors,” where newborn babies had their spines severed, untrained staff administered fatal doses of drugs to poor women, and aborted fetal remains were found stuffed into every available crevice.

In September 2013, Steve Volk interviewed Gosnell for Philadelphia Magazine. Gosnell, he wrote, “sees himself as having performed a noble function in society.”

"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did,” Volk said. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty.”

By plying his trade in poverty-stricken West Philadelphia, in a majority minority neighborhood, Gosnell believed he helped reduce the city's low income population.

“In this larger spiritual sense, he believes he was performing a service for people,” Volk said.

After his conviction, Gosnell sought to work with Hillary Clinton's embattled charity, the Clinton Global Initiative or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on issues of "prison and justice reform.”

"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said.

Gosnell's self-confidence has seldom been questioned, from the dismissive way he treated police who searched his home – playing Chopin on the piano as they searched his flea-ridden basement – to the way he carried himself in court. Defense attorney Jack McMahon had also told reporters after the guilty verdict that the mass murderer “truly believes in himself.”

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The filmmakers, who have produced several right-of-center documentaries, plan to make a big budget, big screen film about Gosnell's life. They continue to raise funds for their efforts at GosnellMovie.com.

But they may need a breather after encountering Gosnell himself.

“I’m still recovering, actually,” McElhinney told the Signal.

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Josh Duggar apologizes, admits ‘wrongdoing’ as young teen amid molestation accusations; resigns from FRC

By John-Henry Westen

Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

Update (May 22 9:54 a.m.): The Family Research Council's statement has been added below.

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In response to allegations in the media that he molested minor girls when he was in his early teens, Josh Duggar has admitted in a public statement that he acted "inexcusably" at the time, and has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including "forcible fondling" against five minors.

According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.

According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a "stern talk" about what would happen if he "continued such behavior," but no formal action was taken at the time.

The issue emerged again in 2006, after a family friend had written details about the allegations in letter and placed it in a book, which was subsequently loaned out. This resulted in a call being placed to a child abuse hotline, which in turn led to a formal investigation being opened. By this point, however, the statute of limitations had expired, and as there had been no new allegations or evidence that the abuse was ongoing, the case was dropped.

Although Josh was never charged, his now-wife, Anna, says that he confessed his actions to her and her parents two years before he asked her to marry him.

"I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions," he said in a statement today. "In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Anna said she was "surprised" when Josh had voluntarily admitted what he had done to her and her parents two years before proposing to her. "I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it," she wrote today. "For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes."

"I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis," she added. "If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right."

LifeSiteNews is continuing to investigate this developing story. Following are the Duggar family’s statements responding to media reports about the incidents.

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday.

It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. 

We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him.

When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes.

At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him... I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.

I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Family Research Council statement:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement regarding the resignation of Josh Duggar:

"Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

"Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.  We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.  We will be praying for everyone involved," concluded Perkins.

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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Dutch court acquits man who euthanized his mother after doctor refused

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

May 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A Dutch appeals court acquitted a 74 year-old man earlier this month of the murder of his mother in 2008, because he acted in an “emergency situation”: the woman wanted euthanasia and had not obtained it from her family doctor.

The decision is a surprising one, even in the Netherlands, and will probably be followed by an appeal from the public prosecutor, who has already published a communiqué reminding the public that euthanasia and assisted suicide “are and remain, in the eyes of the prosecutor, exclusively to be performed by a doctor.” But as it stands, it marks a new step down the slippery slope of euthanasia in that it justifies an act of euthanasia contrary to the letter of the law on the grounds that the accused, Albert Heringa, was careful to act in compliance with the law’s provisions, the court ruled.

Albert Heringa acted in accordance with his conscience of his own duty and he was right to do so, ruled the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court, because his sense of duty “justly” carried more weight than the legal prohibition of the act, which in theory can only be decriminalized when performed by a medical doctor under strict conditions.

The accused said he was “very happy” about the decision. The Netherlands Right to Die Society (NVVE) hailed it as “a step in the direction we want to follow.” “Many people who consider their life complete wish to be helped by loved ones,” said its spokeswoman, Fiona Zonneveld.

The judges did not take into account the fact that Albert Heringa’s mother, “Moek,” was deemed ineligible for euthanasia by her doctor.

In 2008, Moek was 99. She had no grave illness; she was just old and blind and did not feel like living any longer, calling her suffering “unbearable” and “without hope of improvement.” When her doctor refused euthanasia on those grounds, she turned to her son who decided to help his mother die. He was later to explain that his mother started hoarding her medication in order to kill herself through an overdose. The pills she was taking would not have been able to bring about her death, he argued, but would have made her health much worse. This was confirmed during the subsequent judicial enquiry.

Heringa decided to go to work “transparently,” filming his every gesture in view of the killing of his mother. He used an overdose of his own malaria pills together with sleeping pills and anti-emetics to poison her. The films were later used to illustrate a documentary on “Moek’s last wish,” which was aired in 2010 on Dutch TV. The appeals court judges took this “transparency” into account in their decision to acquit him.

The public prosecution was not so lax. Despite the “rectitude” of Heringa’s intention, it accused the man of not having acted in compliance with the law. In 2013, he was judged guilty but exempted from punishment. The prosecution appealed that decision, demanding a three months suspended prison sentence in order to underscore the illegality of his actions. But the Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeals court went even further than the first judges in exonerating him completely.

They invoked the euthanasia law, which decriminalizes euthanasia when no other “reasonable solution” is available to alleviate a patient’s suffering and thus avoid euthanasia, but in this case they equated the potential “reasonable solution” with the ability to find a doctor who would be willing to perform the act, as if euthanasia were a patient right. Heringa could not find one, therefore he was justified in taking the law in his own hands, the judgment says in substance.

This marks a double revolution. Firstly, the court overlooked the legal requirement that a doctor should perform euthanasia, and no one else. Secondly, it justified euthanasia on a woman who was simply “tired of living,” a situation for which the euthanasia law definitely does not provide.

But this is just another element of the Pandora’s box that was opened when the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. Increasingly, regional control commissions, which verify all declared acts of euthanasia retrospectively, have cleared “mercy-killings” of elderly people who had multiple complaints but no single life-threatening disease. “Intolerable suffering” is being interpreted more and more widely. In Heringa’s case, it is simply his mother’s plea for euthanasia that justified the act in the eyes of the court.

The court even went so far as to say that Heringa would have had to live with a “sense of guilt until the end of his life” had he not taken measures to end his mother’s life.

In 2011, the Dutch medical association KNMG changed its position on “intolerable suffering,” declaring that “unbearable and hopeless” suffering can result from other causes than physical illness. Also, the End of Life Clinic founded in 2012 caters to euthanasia requests that have been refused by patients’ family doctors on conscientious or medical grounds. Would Heringa have found a doctor willing to perform euthanasia on his mother in this new situation?

Whatever the answer to that question – and no one will ever know – the fact of his acquittal is a definite sign that euthanasia is being treated more and more as a right and an acceptable option in the Netherlands. It is also good news for unscrupulous family members who might find it expedient to push their relatives towards the grave.

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