February 29, 2012 ( – A writer and mother has challenged Rick Santorum’s stance against abortion by explaining that she would have certainly aborted her son if she had known of his disability and attendant suffering before he was born.

“I’m so grateful that Ronan is my child,” Emily Rapp wrote in her column appearing in Slate magazine. “I also wish he’d never been born; no person should suffer in this way.”

Santorum, who has used his GOP presidential campaign to question abortion, contraception and the fallout from the sexual revolution, has pointed to his daughter Bella as a testament to his family’s dedication to the sanctity of life. Bella Santorum was born with Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that is likely to end in death either before or shortly after birth. However, thanks to the Santorums’ perseverance, Bella has already celebrated her third birthday.

Rapp opens her column, which is headed by an image of herself and her son smiling at each other, by declaring that had she known of her son’s maladies before birth, “I would have saved him from suffering.”


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Rapp’s son, who is almost two, suffers from Tay-Sachs disease, a degenerative condition that has left him blind and paralyzed and that will likely lead to his death before long.

“I believe it would have been an act of love to abort him, knowing that his life would be primarily one of intense suffering,” writes Rapp.

The creative writing professor says that she loves her son “more than any person in the world and his life is of utmost value to me,” but adds that she would have aborted him “without question and without regret.”

The fact that she can hold both “truths,” she says, “points to the reductive and narrow-minded nature of Rick Santorum’s assertions” that prenatal testing for irreversible conditions is morally questionable due to its role in increasing abortions.

Rapp, who herself suffers from a congenital condition that caused her to lose one leg at an early age, said that her mother “probably wished she’d had the choice” to abort her, and that it would have been her prerogative to do so, even though doctors gave her incorrect information in predicting Rapp would become mentally disabled or never walk.

“Regardless of the fact that none of the doctor’s warnings had any truth to them, it would have been her choice to make,” she wrote.

Rapp concluded that Santorum’s stance against abortion advocates “a return to that oppressive historical situation where women were punished for having sex, for making any kind of reproductive choice whatsoever, for being women, for being human beings.” “Neither choice is bad or good; neither is this one thing or the other,” she wrote.”

Last October, the New York Times published Rapp’s paean to nurturing a terminally ill child. She described parents in similar circumstances as “dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell.”

“I would walk through a tunnel of fire if it would save my son. … But it won’t,” she wrote. “What I can do is protect my son from as much pain as possible, and then finally do the hardest thing of all, a thing most parents will thankfully never have to do: I will love him to the end of his life, and then I will let him go.”

For his part, Rick Santorum has described Bella, the youngest of seven living children, as the “joyful center of our universe” and has criticized doctors for encouraging the couple not to give her medical treatment following her diagnosis because she was not likely to see her first birthday.

In an October campaign video celebrating his daughter’s life, Santorum explains how he and his wife responded when a doctor one day advised the couple on how to care for Bella as she died. “Karen and I looked at each other and said, we’re not going to focus on her dying, we’re going to focus on her living,” he said.

“I look at her and I look at the joy and the simplicity and the love that she emits, and it’s clear to me that we’re the disabled ones, not her.”


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