Interviews

The Santorums reflect on the value, sanctity of life

Share their story in new book 'Bella's Gift'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 10, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, and you know what has happened already today. Kayla Mueller has been confirmed dead, 26-year-old aid worker, killed. We just don't know when or whether it was as a result of that Jordanian airstrike in which she was collateral damage.

But I do know I am very grateful to have these two on the show today to step back and look at the value and the sanctity of life, how special it is, how fleeting it is. They know a thing or two about it, not only because back in 19 -- I think it was 1996, right, guys?

(CROSSTALK)

RICK SANTORUM, R-FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes.

CAVUTO: You lost a son born prematurely.

And, of course, they have been dealing ongoing with a child now who was all but given up for dead herself shortly after she was born. That was close to seven years ago. And she is doing just fine. And her parents are doing just fine, even after writing a book together.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: And that can lead to all sorts of marital discord.

I'm happy to have them with us right now.

You know that guy on the left, of course, Senator Rick Santorum. But his wife is the real -- is the real boss of this outfit.

R. SANTORUM: She is.

CAVUTO: And, of course, she had the desktop when they were writing this. He was relegated to the laptop...

R. SANTORUM: Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But, Rick and Karen Santorum, welcome to both of you.

R. SANTORUM: Thank you.

CAVUTO: And the book is "Bella's Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation."

And we couldn't have picked better timing, guys, with this tragic news.

R. SANTORUM: Horrible story.

CAVUTO: It does make you think about life, doesn't it?

KAREN SANTORUM, WIFE OF RICK SANTORUM: My heart is breaking for them.

CAVUTO: What do you think?

K. SANTORUM: All of our heart is breaking for them.

And then to see the mother, it's extremely difficult. So, we will be praying for the family for a long time.

CAVUTO: Well, what do you tell them when they hear this and they say, what value can we place to a group that does this sort of stuff?

R. SANTORUM: This is evil. This is -- it's just these people are evil. They can call themselves whatever they want. They are evil.

And...

CAVUTO: So when we don't heighten them to the degree we have other battles, when the president low-keys it...

R. SANTORUM: That's right.

CAVUTO: ... maybe they're not setting the whole world on fire -- the world is already on fire.

R. SANTORUM: The world is on fire.

And these people want to pour gasoline to -- not a metaphor. It's true. They pour gasoline and light that fire. And they are not going to go away based on our policies in the Middle East or anywhere else. These people have convictions about what their mission is. And it has nothing to do with what we do. It has to do with who we are.

And this is an evil that, if not stopped and destroyed, is going to continue to flourish. And that -- and this is going to be one of many things that we're going to see going forward, which is tragic.

CAVUTO: And the senator raises a good point, but, Karen, I want to raise it with you. I think -- and maybe this hits home for me more because I have a daughter about this young lady's age.

And I'm thinking, at that is someone and the family has dealt with this yourself, and now dealing with it with Bella. It's night and day, but it's still your child.

K. SANTORUM: Oh, my goodness.

CAVUTO: And you know when Bella was born, right out -- you knew right away she had something bad. What was it? What is it?

K. SANTORUM: Oh, Bella, four days after birth, was diagnosed with a Trisomy 18, which is a genetic syndrome where she has an extra 18th chromosome.

And we were told she wouldn't live beyond a few days. Not one physician gave her any hope at all. And so it was a very long and painful journey. The message with Bella is that they used lethal language, incompatible with life, we were told, lethal diagnosis.

And too often they see a diagnosis, and not a person. And that's what happened with Bella. And we chose to celebrate her life and fight for her. And here we are. She will be 7 in three months. And she's a great kid.

CAVUTO: But you know what? I think you would relate, Senator. And you would go on and off with chapters in the book that you each wrote.

R. SANTORUM: Yes.

CAVUTO: But the doctor couldn't be worse, right, telling you, like, yes, it doesn't look good. Talk about bad bedside manner, right?

R. SANTORUM: We had a lot of great doctors. We had a lot of great doctors at the original hospital and some other hospitals. We found doctors who were -- who really valued every -- and valued life and were willing to give every child a chance.

You have some that aren't. And one in...

(CROSSTALK)

R. SANTORUM: ... one in particular who we were trying to just get some basic care. We were taking her home on hospice, 10-day-old baby on hospice.

And Karen, you know, realized she had some lung difficulties. They told us that. And So Karen asked for oxygen. And the doctor just said, no, you have to -- no, you have to learn to let go. Just let her go.

CAVUTO: Incredible.

R. SANTORUM: Just oxygen, so she could help her to breathe.

CAVUTO: So, what are her prospects now? She won't live a normal life, right?

(CROSSTALK)

K. SANTORUM: No, she's exceeded every expectation. We went -- we sat through the she will never -- the never-do list many times.

R. SANTORUM: Yes.

CAVUTO: Yes.

K. SANTORUM: And she's not surviving. She's thriving.

CAVUTO: What can't she do? Karen, what can't she do?

K. SANTORUM: Bella cannot walk or talk, but we say she...

(CROSSTALK)

R. SANTORUM: She needs care. She needs care 24 hours.

K. SANTORUM: She needs a lot of care.

R. SANTORUM: Yes, she does.

K. SANTORUM: And we take care of her.

CAVUTO: He insists that Bella loves him the most. I saw that.

(LAUGHTER)

K. SANTORUM: She has him wrapped around her little finger, we will tell you. He's just a mush when he's with her. She's a very happy little girl who requires a lot of care.

R. SANTORUM: She is. And she loves. That's what she can do. We don't focus on what she can't do. We focus on what she can do.

K. SANTORUM: Yes. She brings so much joy.

R. SANTORUM: And I tell the story. It's in the book. It's really true, is, I sat there in the crib one day and looked at her and I realized that Bella can't do all these things, but what she can do is that she can love.

And I looked that day and I thought, wow, that's how our father in heaven looks at me. I can't do anything for him.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, you are very comfortable saying...

R. SANTORUM: She can love me. I can love her.

CAVUTO: ... things like that, father in heaven, Jesus, God is looking after me, this is what the lord wants.

R. SANTORUM: Yes. This is -- this is how we got through this.

CAVUTO: But you know that, guys. But we live in an age where at least in the mainstream Republican Party, don't say that too, too much.

K. SANTORUM: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

R. SANTORUM: That's how people live.

K. SANTORUM: These families are such an inspiration. And we always say Bella is a little girl with a big message, simply that every person matters.

And there are so many people out there with disabilities who feel alone or isolated in their suffering. And our task is to love them and have compassion and care for them as they live out their own personal journeys, whatever they may be.

R. SANTORUM: The other thing about this book, this book is a marriage book, because people look at us and say -- and look at us and say, oh, look at them holding hands. They love each other.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But you got mad at him when he relayed a story about Bella, right?

(CROSSTALK)

R. SANTORUM: There is a lot in this book.

K. SANTORUM: Mom and dads...

(CROSSTALK)

K. SANTORUM: ... very differently. And...

CAVUTO: But you still stick to your guns.

Not too long ago, Senator, you had said, I don't believe life begins at conception. I know life begins at conception.

All of this occurs around the same time the president says Christians cannot get on their high horse, when they have abused things done in the name of their god, Jesus.

What did you think of that?

R. SANTORUM: Well, I put out -- I was one of the few people who actually put out a statement.

And to go back 1,000 years and point out to something that has now universally been repudiated by all Christians, and to say that because something happened 1,000 years ago, that we can't get on our high horse, you know, we have every obligation to judge the actions of people.

None of us here can judge any individual person. That's not our job. What we can do is, we can judge the actions of people. And these people are acting with evil and with menace. And they are using a religion to justify that. And that's what needs to be explained. And we can't sugarcoat it and say, well, we are morally culpable too. No, we are not. No, we are not.

CAVUTO: But people like you -- I wish we had more time, but you, you have some money from consulting and everything else.

A lot of people couldn't afford the kind of care that you get. The flip side of that is people think guys like you don't have any hardship.

R. SANTORUM: Yes.

K. SANTORUM: That's a great question, Neil.

We do Bella's care. I have a baby-sitter, Brigitte (ph), who comes in. Our kids, every one of them help out.

CAVUTO: Well, you have like 48 kids.

(LAUGHTER)

K. SANTORUM: Every -- I'm one of 12. We have a lot of kids.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: And him.

R. SANTORUM: Yes. That's...

K. SANTORUM: But I have to say that for people out there who can't afford it, because there are expenses...

R. SANTORUM: Yes, absolutely, a lot.

K. SANTORUM: There's a lot of medical expenses. There is Medicaid.

CAVUTO: Would Obamacare take care of that?

(CROSSTALK)

K. SANTORUM: And there are groups out there.

R. SANTORUM: Well, Medicaid takes care of people who are severely disabled.

CAVUTO: Right.

R. SANTORUM: And, look, I have always been supportive of making sure that we take care of those who can't care for themselves.

CAVUTO: All right.

R. SANTORUM: So, that's sort of a -- that's sort of a red herring.

CAVUTO: But people who thought you might dial back the religion thing or the -- you're not going to be dialing that back?

R. SANTORUM: We -- what we wanted to do is honestly talk about what helped us get through this to try to help others.

And in our case, it's a little girl with Trisomy 18, but there are lots of people going through lots of hardships. And we just want to let them know, you know, it's not easy, but it's worth it. It's worth the pain to get...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: She is actually a better writer than you are, come to think of it.

R. SANTORUM: Yes, she is.

CAVUTO: No, I'm kidding.

R. SANTORUM: Thank you very much.

CAVUTO: Karen and Rick Santorum, it's really a very uplifting book. You don't even have to be on the political spectrum to appreciate parents caring for a child.

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