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Should Rick Santorum Drop Out of the GOP Race for His Daughter's Sake?

The Santorum family.

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is facing a family crisis. On Saturday night, his youngest child, 3-year-old Bella, was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The emergency forced Santorum to leave Florida, where he had been campaigning prior to the state primary. He canceled his planned Sunday campaign schedule, which included a morning appearance on TV’s Meet the Press and a speaking engagement at a Miami ministry. His spokesman said, “Rick intends to return to Florida and resume the campaign schedule as soon as it is possible.”

But this personal crisis raises the important question: Should he be in the race at all?

You see, Bella – her full name is Isabella – was born with Trisomy 18, a serious chromosomal condition. The disorder is often fatal in the first year of life, and children who do survive experience medical problems including heart and kidney disease. They also have severe developmental delays and need lifelong caregiving. Only a small percentage live to adulthood.

Santorum and his wife, Karen, are loving parents to Bella, as well as to their six older children. But raising a special-needs child is a job in itself, involving countless visits to specialists, therapists and other experts. When the child also has medical issues, things become even more complicated.

With all this in mind, is a presidential run the wisest choice for Santorum? Should he be spending so much time away from a child who needs him, pursuing a job that would take him away from her even more often? It’s difficult enough to cut short a campaign event a few hundred miles away from home. Suppose, heaven forbid, Bella becomes ill when he’s at an overseas economic summit, or behind closed doors deciding whether to declare war on an enemy country?

And what about the fishbowl environment of the White House? Much as the Santorums might try to preserve Bella’s privacy, they’d still be subjected to press queries, speculation about Bella’s health and photographers clamoring for a glimpse of her face. Is this the way Bella deserves to spend the precious years she has?

Rick Santorum is running on a “pro-family” platform, which includes opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. But if he’s really determined to put family first, perhaps he should start with his own. With all due respect, it’s time for him to get out of the race – he’s not likely to beat Romney or Gingrich anyway – and stay closer to the little girl who needs him more than his constituents do.

In the meantime, we wish Bella a very speedy recovery.

[Photo: courtesy RickSantorum.com]

Read more of Shana’s writing at Momsperiments.

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