Our children listen to us. They really do. And you never know what will come of it.
Case in point: My teen daughter, Katharine.
She is our youngest (of seven), and so she has grown up (quietly) taking in family conversations and dialogues and heated arguments around the dinner table about all kinds of topics – politics and theology and politics and the arts and politics … lots of politics.
And life! We’ve debated war and peace, violence vs. non-violence, but the one constant in all those dinner debates – perhaps the only constant – is that life begins at conception and that abortion is always, always, always wrong. In part, it’s a shared assumption that’s easy to understand, given that a living testimony to its truth sat with us at the table: My son and Kath’s brother, Nicky. He’s also a teen, and also a frequent contributor to our debates. Plus, Nick has Down syndrome.
It’s no secret that our society – our world! – sees people with Down syndrome as dispensable. Entire nations are seeking to eliminate Down’s altogether by eliminating those who have it before they’re born. The rate of abortion after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is somewhere in the vicinity of nine out of 10. Yet, there’s our Nicky sitting there, cutting up with his siblings, sharing, loving.
The world would think differently if they had a chance to meet him.
That’s where Katharine comes in. After many years of absorbing the family’s pro-life ethic, she overnight became a pro-life activist after seeing Unplanned. She went with me to pray outside the South Bend abortion clinic; she helped organize a pro-life club at her Catholic middle school; she wrote passionate papers for her religion class about her pro-life convictions. Then, she heard about the local Right to Life essay contest for 8th-graders – which, this year, became a letter-writing event. Since our former mayor, Pete Buttigieg, was running for president, Right to Life Michiana asked the contest participants to write him a letter and ask him to “reconsider his pro-abortion view by articulating why you are pro-life.”
Before the contest concluded, Mayor Pete withdrew from the race. No matter – the contest went on, and Kath was inspired. Although she was honored that her letter won recognition, she was especially glad that others were inspired by her words and her story. As you’ll see (her letter follows), she’s hoping Mayor Pete will be similarly inspired. If not, maybe he’d be willing to meet with Nicky and see the full life radiating from his face as she and we all do. He’s a living, laughing pro-life testimony.
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Dear Mr. Buttigieg,
Hello, I am a young girl in 8th grade, excited to graduate, and move on to high school. I am a dedicated citizen who loves living in South Bend, Indiana. I love my country as well so naturally I respect and gratefully thank anyone who has served our country. I want to thank you for dedicating your time to our wonderful country since I know that you have served for us in Afghanistan.
So a little bit more about me, I am the youngest of seven, love reading, and spending time with my family. I am also a Christian. I know that you are too from hearing and watching news about you. In The View about “Gaining Popularity and Faith in Politics,” you talked about helping the poor and the vulnerable, and I totally agree.
I’ve seen a few videos about you because I’m interested in politics. There’s another video of you in The View explaining why you are pro-choice. Meghan McCain asks you a question about your opinion of late-term abortion. Your answer talked about the situation, “Then she gets the most, perhaps, devastating news of her life. We’re talking about families that may have picked out a name, may be assembling a crib, and they learn something excruciating and are faced with this terrible choice.”
That confused me, and multiple questions popped up into my head: Is the devastating news that the baby is differently abled? That the baby is the ‘wrong’ gender? Is the terrible choice between life and abortion? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are telling me that my brother shouldn’t be alive.
My brother, Nicholas, or Nicky, is an amazing person! He is a freshman in high school, is in the musical, is the vice president of the freshman student council, and achieved even more. He loves eating pretzels, watching movies, and playing drums.
The one difference between him and others is that he has Down syndrome. Would this be an example of the devastating news? That my mom had this difficult choice to make? Just because Nicky has Down syndrome, he shouldn’t have had the chance of eating pizza, making friends, seeing a movie, or even learning to walk?
I wrote earlier in this letter about how you said that we need to help the poor, and vulnerable, but you’re contradicting that by saying differently abled babies shouldn’t have the chance of life. Nicky was vulnerable because he has Down syndrome, but for my mother, killing a child never was and never will be an option for her.
Thank you for taking some time out of your day to read this letter. Also, thanks for the good things you did for us as Mayor of South Bend. Good luck for what comes next in your life. I hope you take something out of this letter, and consider writing back.
St. Matthew’s Cathedral (8th grade)
South Bend, Indiana