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Loving those with disabilities

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Many of us have hidden fears and hesitations when it comes to dealing with persons with severe disabilities. Their unfamiliar gestures, behaviors, and limitations can challenge us and infringe on our comfort zones. We may be tempted to apply a different standard when we deal with them. Even very young children with disabilities may suffer discrimination through denial of care as newborns, or through abortion in utero.

During his presidential campaign, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and his wife Karen were often asked by people on the campaign trail about their daughter Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18, a severe genetic defect caused by an extra chromosome. Such children tend to have shorter lifespans, with 90 percent dying during the first year of life. Nevertheless, with proper care, some can live well into their teens, and even into their 20's or 30's. Bella became known to the public during her father's candidacy in part because of several memorable moments during the TV debates where Rick powerfully described how Bella's birth and struggles had impacted their family.

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