Santorum fighting for children like ill daughter

AP News
Posted: Mar 29, 2011 10:22 PM
Santorum fighting for children like ill daughter

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Tuesday that having a seriously ill young daughter tips the scale in both directions as he decides whether to run for president.

Santorum canceled a trip to Iowa over the weekend because 2-year-old Isabella was sick, and after spending two days in New Hampshire he planned to head home a bit earlier than planned Tuesday night.

Bella, who turns 3 in May, was born with trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that in most cases causes death within a year. Because of her condition, even a common cold can be dangerous, Santorum said, but she is doing well overall and hasn't been hospitalized since a lengthy stay when she was an infant.

"We just have to be very vigilant in making sure she has the care that's needed to get through this," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Santorum said he expects to make his decision in the next few months and is figuring out whether he could raise enough money for a strong campaign. Providing for his family financially and considering the impact a campaign would have on all seven of his children also are big factors, he said, as is Bella's condition in particular.

"It actually weighs in my mind both ways," he said. "Obviously she's fragile, we don't know how long we're going to have her and we appreciate every day we do have her. She's a great blessing."

On the other side, he said, "I look at how society looks at little children like Bella."

A high percentage of children with trisomy 18 are aborted, Santorum said, and many who are born with that and similar conditions aren't given appropriate care, particularly in countries with socialized medicine.

"These children are simply denied care because they don't have long life expectancies; they're not seen as useful economic units," he said. "In one respect, I feel like I have to go out and fight for people, for children like Bella, and for the dignity of human life irrespective of their economically productive ability. I think Bella's had a great impact on many, many people."

In an earlier radio interview Tuesday, Santorum said the Social Security system would be in much better shape if there were fewer abortions.

He said on WESZ-AM radio in Laconia that the system has design flaws but the reason it's in big trouble is there aren't enough workers to support retirees. He blamed that on what he called the nation's abortion culture and said that culture, coupled with policies that don't support families, deny America what it needs _ more people.

In the AP interview, Santorum backed off those comments slightly. He said he had agreed with a caller that such an argument can be made, but he said it's not one he plans to push.

Santorum, a two-term senator who lost his 2006 re-election bid to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., has made 13 trips to New Hampshire, which holds the earliest presidential primary. Month after month, the message from voters has been the same, he said: Government is too big, it's too intrusive and it is standing in the way of economic progress.

"I think it's pretty clear people are looking for a committed conservative who they can trust to stand up and fight for limited government in Washington, D.C.," he said. "Obviously, I have a pretty good record in that regard."

A former member of the Senate Armed Services committee, Santorum also accused President Barack Obama of "playing fast and loose" with American foreign policy in his approach to Libya. He faulted Obama for not finding out more about the rebels before involving the U.S. in military action.

"If you're going to ask for the ouster of someone, you better know who you're advocating for putting in there," he said.

But beyond policy positions, Santorum said he is willing to work hard to win over New Hampshire voters one-by-one by showing them his leadership skills and ability to connect with people.

"I know there's some people who think they can just parachute in here at the last minute, run a few ads and do the glitz and glamour because they're rock stars of one type or another. Maybe that works in New Hampshire, but I prefer the old fashioned way."