Values

We are all Charlie Gard - legislation would allow infant and parents to come to US

Life has a way of reminding its benefactors of what an inexpressible miracle it truly is at times. Sometimes doctors play a critical part in making the miracle possible. And sometimes, the miracle comes even when the most well-meaning experts believe that science says there is no hope.

But somehow in the twisted, upside-down case of a little 11-month-old baby boy named Charlie Gard, doctors and the judiciary have said that, not only is there no hope, but rather than release Charlie to the care of his parents, they have also omnisciently decided to literally hold him hostage – insisting not only that Charlie must die but that he also must be in their "care" when he does. It is a case that rocks America to our core, because if something like this can happen across the pond, it can certainly happen here.

America and the U.K. both believe that the very purpose of government is to protect innocent human life because we share a common Western heritage marked by something very simple: we deeply value all life, regardless of its “potential,” or the economic output an individual might contribute to society. Ultimately, the human family is held together by this core commitment – or it rapidly disintegrates into survival of the fittest.

We don’t just protect -- we fight for the lives of every individual, even the little lambs that somehow get lost. No matter how marginalized -- those with physical or mental disabilities; the one who can’t speak, the one who can’t hear, the one who can’t see; they are equal under our laws, even if they lack the very ability to understand that those laws exist. Sometimes we forget how unique this equal justice under law really is. 

That is why Congressman Brad Wenstrup and I have proposed legislation to grant lawful permanent status in the U.S. to Charlie Gard and his family, so they can at least pursue their best hope for Charlie.

The moment a human life can begin to be measured on a sliding scale – when lawmakers and doctors decide what “life is unworthy of life” – this is the moment our humanity itself begins to unravel.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Charlie Gard must not be allowed to live out the only life he has, despite his parents’ wishes to try experimental treatment. His fate now rests in a legal battle taking place in the U.K. court system.

I am Charlie Gard. You are Charlie Gard. Theresa May is Charlie Gard. Every person on the European Court of Human Rights – each one who has sentenced him to death -- is Charlie Gard.

If this ruling stands, how long before each of us is just one bad accident, one disease, one diagnosis away from being too old, too fragile, too disabled, too “unfit,” to be worth keeping alive? A ruling class that can take away Charlie’s humanity is one that can take away yours, too. Or worse: imagine if your own child’s health required life-saving medical care, which you fiercely sought to provide – only to be told by doctors that you no longer have a right to even try to remove and protect your own child from certain death?  Regardless of the pressures, we must approach these sacred lines of humanity with the gravest of caution.

It would be one thing for the courts and hospital to say they can no longer be part of keeping Charlie alive and release him in this instance to his parents who love him more than anyone else on earth. It is something far different to arrogantly refuse Charlie's parents the right to try to save him. Charlie’s humanity, his mother and father’s parental rights, and the rights of all of the disabled are at stake in this small child’s case.

That is why Congressman Brad Wenstrup and I have proposed legislation to grant lawful permanent status in the U.S. to Charlie Gard and his family, so they can at least pursue their best hope for Charlie.

We mustn’t be fooled into missing the utter barbarity of this court ruling or what it means for our societies if it is allowed to stand.

Here in the U.S., we have lost our way before, more than once…. and the cost has been unimaginable.

Not so many decades ago – but still long enough ago in our history that many have forgotten -- leading institutions and American academia embraced the idea of eugenics as a means to manage the betterment of the human race. Ironically it was in the name of bettering humanity that some unthinkable atrocities occurred on a mass scale: tens of thousands of the poor and disabled were forcibly sterilized in the United States over several decades. These unthinkable human rights abuses were sanctioned by state legislatures and ultimately affirmed by our Supreme Court, as our civic elite sought to purge the “unfit” from society.

Only a century before that, we had trod a similar path– when once more our Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott that slaves were not persons under the Constitution, not able to sue for their freedom, not entitled to equal protection under the law. And a dreadful war was fought between the States – over half a million lives lost – for us to begin to right that wrong.

God help our two nations find our way again. God help us all – Prime Minister Theresa May, the courts, the doctors, the judges, the elite of our generation – remember who we are as a human family, and refuse to allow ourselves to be quietly ushered into that Cimmerian night where the light of human compassion has gone out and the survival of the fittest has prevailed over humanity.

I believe the awakening will come, when we remember who we are and what holds us all together.

But God forgive us all, if a small boy named Charlie must be stripped of his life before we remember.

Republican Congressman Trent Franks represents Arizona’s 8th district. He is co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, the Adoption Caucus and the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.