This pro-life congressman was almost an abortion victim
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- Fifty-three years ago, Representative David Schweikert, R-AZ, was born to a mother who nearly went through with an abortion. It would be 36 years before Schweikert, who was adopted by Catholic parents, met his birth mother and father -- and now he and his wife are passing the gift of life and parenting on to their own adopted child, Olivia.
In a lengthy interview with LifeSiteNews, Schweikert explained how his personal story -- including being raised by leaders in the state's pro-life movement -- has greatly influenced his views on abortion, adoption, and the growing success of the pro-life movement.
"I was born in an unwed mother's home"
"You've got to understand -- I was born in an unwed mother's home to a teenage mother," said Schweikert, "given up [for adoption] and adopted by a family that brought me to Arizona. So, the issue is somewhat personal, but also my brother and my sister came to the same environment. I've also had the uniqueness of having, not until my late thirties, an amazing relationship with my birth mom."
According to the Congressman, his relationship with his birth mother was "expanded a few years later, by accident, when my birth mom found something from my birth father's high school, which had a Social Security number. So, now, every Sunday, I speak to my birth father for about an hour. When I met him, I knocked on the door -- he's wearing the same suit, the same tie, the same -- we speak in the same sort of cadence -- it is so much fun."
"My mother who raised me, and my birth mother -- they both passed -- but they became the best of friends. They were both traditional Catholics, and they had so much to share. So, understand the world I'm coming from."
Expanding the family
"When I met my birth mother, her first words out of her mouth were: She prayed for me every day."
In addition to a relationship with his birth mother, Schweikert says he "gained two six-foot tall, blonde half-sisters and all these other nephews and nieces, and made Christmas really expensive. And it's been normal!"
"The amazing thing is -- and I think this may be one of the great successes in the life movement -- that we do have to reach out and give society credit for. We became much more accepting and embracing, a respect for life and sometimes the different families that comes with it."
"Every couple of years, we get our families together and go to Disneyland. So my sister with her birth family -- three girls and a boy, and her mom, and my two half-sisters, and their kids -- and the kids get it. But one of the crazy things you're gonna get is a little kid will come up to you and say, 'My mom is your sister, but your sister is not my mom's sister.' And you say 'yes,' and they say, 'I get it.'"
While he first learned of his near-abortion from his mother, Schweikert said he also heard about it from one of her friends. "One of the most amazing experiences was at my birth mother's funeral. The girlfriend who was in the car with her sat next to me, and retold me the story. It was interesting hearing it 15 years later from someone who was an observer. They were on their way to Tijuana, to cross the border. The story goes that my birth mother, as they got closer and closer, started to hyperventilate, get more upset, and the two girlfriends with her got a little panicky because she was just hyperventilating and crying. They turned around and went back to LA, and took her to her mom. Apparently, the mom was not happy. The mom -- who would be my birth grandmother -- went over and fussed at the birth father's family. But a few months later, I was born at Holy Family Unwed Mother's Home in LA. And adopted."
The gift of life
A longtime politician, Schweikert says he's "seen the power of the gift of life, and so is it the debate we're having an ethical one about what it means to be human, or is it a debate about convenience and inconvenience?"
"How often will you hear on the pro-choice side the debate is, 'this is not convenient to someone's life.' It's a difficulty -- those are sort of utilitarian arguments. This doesn't work in this person's life. Okay, you're giving up -- if it's emotionally and those things, difficult -- but on the flip side, even if you're not someone of faith, what does it mean to be human?"
“What's fascinating -- maybe I was blessed, as a young man around this issue -- I ran into a friend. She was an absolute, raving atheist. Radically pro-life. And her principles were fascinating, saying, 'I don't believe in a deity, but being human is what we are, and if you can't respect life in its full line, then you have a crisis of ethics.' She more of a humanist."
"And it was fascinating."
A changing public attitude
"I may see it more through traditional Catholicism, the blessing of life. But you realize you can have this conversation ... because we know the public's attitude today -- when I ran for the state legislature for the first time in 1988, I was a kid, I was in my twenties -- it was the biggest issue. It was like a war in the Republican Party. An absolute war."
"In Arizona, you get two House seats, and one Senate seat. So my district-mate was a board member of Planned Parenthood, a board member of some of the most radical pro-abortion-type groups. She believed in sex-selection as choice. And that was acceptable as a Republican candidate in the 80s."
"She got more votes than I did," said Schweikert. "Today, that would be unacceptable. When we started to understand the realities of partial-birth, the atrocity of sex-selection, the fact that there are children who are born almost during the procedure -- now, someone like myself, who had been trying to help the crowdfunding of the movie about [Gosnell] -- that would never have been part of our conversation 15 years ago."
The adopted father says the pro-life movement has had success because "those in the movement didn't quit. We took our lumps, we took our losses, but we stayed persistent. Where I believe the other side has become more unhinged, more shrill, more angry -- more emotional. Yes, we tug at heartstrings, but also, we lay our case out. And our case is based more in the respect of love and life, and I see it moving our way systematically to the point now where I [inaudible] audiences that a couple decades ago would have booed me. And I can have the conversation, "Look, here's where I am. How many of you in the room would now, if I said, let's restrict abortion to viability,' and almost every hand will go up in the room. Two decades ago, I would have booed."
"And now you turn to the room and say, 'Okay, now can we have an ethical conversation? Two decades ago, viability was 24 weeks. And then technology moved it to 23, and then technology moved it to 22. What happens if this curve continues? You're telling me your acceptance of what is a restriction -- what you consider life not life, is subject to the whims of technology, not to the whims of what is ethical and right?'"
"How do you have an intellectually robust conversation with someone who may never have actually done a deep dive intellectually on the conversation because it was always visceral to them? Because that makes you sort of say, 'You understand, you've created a utilitarian standard now of life. It's based upon technology, not on a belief system.'"
"I've had some amazingly good success with that conversation. So you say, 'Okay, you're willing to say that life begins at viability. So if I have a technological breakthrough in a decade where it's 18 weeks, are you willing to come along?' So now all of a sudden, it's hard to be a sort of radical abortion supporter when now you're actually having a conversation of 'this is life. I'm willing to make a benchmark at viability.'"
Adopting his own child
"When Joyce and I got married, she was still finishing up a bout of cancer. We tried [to have kids] the normal way, we tried doing a series of direct adoptions, we signed up with different agencies, we did all the classes -- we had given up. We did the additional classes for foster care. When the phone rang, we thought it was our first foster care placement. We were ready for it."
"It turns out, it was a doctor friend saying, 'You won't believe this. I just birthed a little girl, and the mother would like to put her up for adoption with a Catholic family, and I know you're one of them. Come meet her."
"When sitting down with the doctor, the social worker, the adoption worker -- they're telling me how incredibly blessed we are that, for one of [the workers], it had been 15 years since she saw a full-term, healthy, mother on no substances, locally being offered up for adoption."
"We sometimes so focus on the gift of life, the baby, and not understanding that if we love life and families with a love and respect, it's more chaotic. There's more to it. The reaffirmation within the family -- thank you to Mary Lynn, my birth mother, for letting me live. And I didn't know you until I was in my thirties as my sibling, but it's gonna be great getting to know you. And I think that's created this really healthy dynamic. And the trick is -- I'm an adopted parent now, and I know the birth mother. The birth mother, every month, contacts Joyce and I, and we send her a photo of little Olivia. And we're fine with that, because we accept that's part of the incredible miracle she handed us. We're not afraid of it. We just accept that's what it is to be an adoptive parent in a modern society."
Conscience is the big debate of 2016
Switching to policy at the end of the interview, Schweikert said that one of the biggest "value debates” is the battle of the Little Sisters of the Poor against Obama’s HHS mandate.
"Does the Constitution say what the Constitution says?" he asked. "Because it's a really dangerous path, and those on the control freak left -- be careful what you ask for. Because if someone cannot have a sense of conscience when it comes to life, the left has to understand are you allowed to have a conscience in regards to war, in regards to other things. This is a big moment for how our republic works, and we're sort of praying and hoping for the best."