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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Father-less Day


For me, and an unfortunately high and increasing number of others, Father’s Day is hard to celebrate. My story is fairly unique in that I was conceived through date-rape and was lovingly raised by my birthmother. My father does not know of my existence but I do know he was married at the time of the rape. The weirdness of not having a dad faded as I entered puberty and grew to understand my unique family unit. However, I wouldn’t understand exactly how unique until I was 18, when my mom told me the truth of her abuse. Despite the weirdness, I never felt overwhelmed by pain on Father’s Day because I knew my mom loved me and God saw me as inherently valuable.

My mom did an amazing job raising me. She selflessly did the job of both parents to the best of her ability. She was protective, limiting negative media influence and providing positive male role models. She was selfless, orienting her life around caring for me while working a full-time job. She was nurturing, guiding me towards treating women with respect and becoming someone who could love his spouse well. Though I cannot picture God as a father, I look forward to the day when I get to be one.  It is a task I feel uniquely purposed for. Furthermore, I cannot believe the purpose of my life is shallow enough to encompass luck; I feel a yoke of responsibility for this great gift of life I have been afforded, a gift that millions of others have had stolen away. I must use my voice to promote peace, justice, understanding and faith.

If I could say something to my father it would be, “I forgive you.”  Though I’ve heard many people tell me I “deserve” to hate him or even tell his family of his past and ruin their lives, I do not see it that way. As a no exceptions pro-lifer, I must treat those conceived in rape with equal amounts of respect as their fathers, who have the same inherent value. I do make a thorough distinction between finding such violent actions wholly abhorrent and taking justice into my own hands. It is not for me to exact revenge; that is the government’s job on Earth and God’s job after it. All I can do is pray for the best for my father, seeking God’s goodness and influence in his life. As a compelling example of Jesus, my mother has taught me to experience and extend God’s forgiveness, not dwell in bitter anger. God’s call on my life is too valuable to waste time hating my father on Father’s Day.


My name is Nicholas Charles D’Angelo, and my mother chose life for me.
Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beware of Slow Care, by Brad Smith

We thought they were helping.  Every time we took our daughter Faith to the hospital for her illness, they would nurse her back to health.  Faith has Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome).  Trisomy 21 is Downs Syndrome.  Trisomy 18 is much harsher with 90% of these children not reaching their first birthday.  At this time, Faith was 2 ½ years old and began to have some serious illnesses that almost took her life several times.  The hospital did some basic things to help her get over the illness and we thought that they were giving her the necessary care any other child would receive.  However when I had an opportunity to ask Rick Santorum for some advice since his little girl Bella also has Trisomy 18,  Rick gave me advice that I had never heard from the mouth of a single doctor.  I was somewhat skeptical when he first shared the list of things that we should be doing for Faith, but he convinced me with some very straight forward and honest comments.  He said if we didn’t do this that we were going to lose our daughter...now you know how he convinced me.


After receiving this list of items, I went to visit my wife, Jesi, and Faith in the hospital during my lunch later that day.  When we showed this list to the doctors, they told us that NOBODY does this. Huh?  We pushed to get the doctors to help us, but after a third hospital visit and a near death experience for Faith caused by the same problem, we finally figured out that they would not treat her.  I know, I know…why did we go back to them?  Well, you expect your doctors to help you and parents in our situation often trust, but need to realize that trust MUST be earned (as we have learned).

This is when we learned about “Slow Code,” although we had not discovered this term yet.  Because of our experience with multiple hospitals, Jesi and I began a journey to get the law changed in Michigan.  During our journey, Jesi researched medical journals on Trisomy 18 which is when we learned the term Slow Code.  Slow Code is when the medical providers offer the appearance of treatment, but knowingly administer the treatment so slowly that it is useless to the patient.  This may sound crazy and like something we might make up.  We not only learned the term from their industry journals, but we experienced it.  There are times in a hospital where you might hear CODE BLUE for an emergency, but why is it you never hear CODE SLOW?  Hospitals hide this practice in a deceitful way so they can inflict their decision on the patient.  This is not care, but lethal neglect or intentional death which I have always termed murder.

In one article of the Journal of Perinatology, a pediatric ethics committee discussed an option of Slow Code as a possible solution in the case of an infant with poor prognosis.  CPR had been offered to the parents and was later withheld by way of a DNR placed on the patient by doctors.  The committee debated this decision, but only from the perspective that CPR should probably have never been offered in the first place.  So here we have a committee of medical “caregivers” suggesting that forms of care should not even be offered to patients based upon their value(less) judgment.  Withholding  medical care and suggestions for treatment is now the medically ethical way to handle a patient?  In the end, this particular committee decided that it is deceitful to use Slow Code.  Ya think?  The fact that this suggestion was even considered legitimate enough to be discussed is troubling.

This brings us back to our daughter Faith.  We were not even offered what we now know to be pretty basic treatment for today’s medicine.  Our daughter Faith had severe sleep apnea which most novices in sleep apnea could have determined.  She had a small jaw which was obvious to anyone with even a little experience.  Our problem, we were not even novices at this point and we had no clue.  We cornered a doctor for an hour in the doctor’s office before he finally told us that if he were in our shoes, he would go to the other hospital.  Really?  After three trips to his hospital and on the verge of a fourth, we finally had some honesty.  Our daughter needed a sleep study which showed the necessity for a Bipap (very similar to a Cpap) to help her breath at night.  When we reached the other hospital, they could not understand why we were not provided with this help for our daughter.  Faith is now 5 years old and doing things that the first group of doctors said would never be possible.  Well, they were right about one thing.  She never would have started walking or probably even have survived had we followed their advice, or lack thereof.


Brad Smith; Married for 16 years to Jesi and the proud father of 5 children living in Rochester Hills, Michigan; Save The 1 pro-life speaker, pro-life blogger, and Board Member
Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hard Cases Unite to Make a Difference! by Rebecca Kiessling


How would like to be labeled  “a hard case?”  What if your class of people were systematically targeted for extinction within legislation?  What if political candidates felt quite comfortable with stating their position that you and your kind aren’t worth protecting and better off dead?  What if your child was regularly stigmatized by our society?  That’s exactly what it’s like for those of us who were conceived in rape, mothers from rape, and those given a poor in utero diagnosis.  But being branded as a “hard case” becomes easier when we all begin to unite behind our unique kinship.  And that’s what Save The 1 has been doing – drawing together perhaps the most stigmatized and marginalized members of today’s society.   

May 2014 was a very big month for Save The 1.  On Saturday, May 3rd, Mary Rathke and I both spoke at the 1st Annual International Pro-Life Leaders Conference in Rome, Italy – sponsored by Lifesitenews -- sharing our stories of having been conceived in rape.  Mary was a double-exception because her birthmother was raped after having been diagnosed as schizophrenic.   Pro-Life leaders from around the world received our message well – vowing to fight abortion without exception and without compromise.
 

The next day, Mary and I were introduced on stage at the Marcio Per La Vita – the Italian March For Life, which had an estimated 60,000 by the time we reached St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope came out and addressed us.  The theme of this year’s march was “Pro Vita Senza Compromesso,” which means “pro-life without compromise.”  During the march, thousands were chanting this theme!
 

 One woman – a nurse – came up to us and showed us a photo of a baby who was conceived in rape.  She explained that the pro-life activists at the hospital have been familiar with my story since it’s been translated into Italian, among many other languages.  So any time they have a patient who is pregnant by rape, they share my story on my website with the pregnant rape victim.  This nurse credited my story has having saved the baby in the photo.  What a wonderful example for every person with a difficult history to see how stepping out and sharing your story can make a difference across the ocean, for someone else who doesn’t even speak your language!

Upon returning from Rome, Mary Rathke spoke at Branch County Right to Life’s benefit dinner where she met a grandmother who shared that her grandchild was conceived in rape.  This grandmother was heartened to know that there are others who are paving the way for her grandchild to be loved and accepted in our society.  Several legislators and even judges shared with Mary how her story helps them to be able to articulate a defense of all human life.

On May 10th, I spoke at a Mother’s Day brunch at Gateway Assembly in Imlay City, MI.  After the brunch, a 16 year old girl named Sarah came up to me to share her own difficult story.  She was conceived when her birthmother was sexually trafficked by her own parents.  Not only was she conceived during unconsensual prostitution, but her birthmother had become a drug addict.  Sarah is now writing out her story and is our newest member of Save The 1!  The next day at the church, another family approached me whose young adoptive daughter was also conceived in rape.  They too were thankful for a support system for their daughter and their family.
 

A week later, on Saturday, May 17th, Save The 1 had its 3rd Pro-Life Speaker Training Conference, at the legislative offices of Right to Life of Michigan in Lansing, MI.  We had five adoptees who were all conceived in rape present – me, Mary Rathke, Travon Clifton, Sarah (these four are all from Michigan), and Darlene Pawlik from New Hampshire.  We also had one mother who had become pregnant from rape – Karyn Liechty, one post-abortive mother from rape whose abortion was forced upon her - Sheryl Williams, as well as Brad and Jesi Smith whose daughter Faith has Trisome 18.   In the morning, everyone had a chance to practice responding to impromptu questions often asked by reporters and during Q & A on college campuses, and in the afternoon, each member gave an 8-minute prepared speech.  We were blessed to have some family and friends there in support, as well as three of our friends from Right to Life of Michigan who helped with our critique – President Barb Listing, Ed Rivet and Genevieve Marnon.  As an additional treat, filmmaker Jim Hanon (End of the Spear) and his team were present  filming and we look forward to seeing the pieces he is putting together for Right to Life of Michigan in conjunction with Save The 1 members!
 

After a wonderful day of camaraderie, we had our first official Board Meeting, having just filed our 501c3 application!  Thank you to the Thomas More Society for generously sponsoring our filing and to Sally Wagenmaker for your wisdom and representation.  I’m proud to announce our stellar Board – Darlene Pawlik, Mary Rathke, Jim Sable (conceived in rape adoptee from IL,) Nick D’Angelo (conceived in rape from NY,) Brad Smith, Dyanne Gonzales from NM, and me – thank you all for your confidence in electing me as President of Save The 1.  I’m eager to see what God is going to achieve through us all!
 

Our next Save The 1 speaker training conference is Saturday, September 20th in Akron, OH at the offices of Right to Life of North East Ohio, and our 5th Save The 1 speaker training  will be held at the offices of Georgia Right to Life in Atlanta on Friday, October 10th.  In 2015, we hope to have more conferences around the country, including in the Los Angeles area.

If you fall into one of the categories of “the hard cases” – those whom Jesus would call “the least of these,” we would love to connect with you!  You are not alone.  Connect with us on our Save The 1 Facebook page, and e-mail me.  We have a Save The 1 activism e-mail group, and there is also an e-mail support group for those who are struggling and/or who want to help others to know their incredible dignity and worth.