US President Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to reach out to the parents of terminally ill British baby Charlie Gard, offering his support for their fight for access to experimental treatment in the US. Trump wrote on Twitter: “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the UK and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”
10-month old Charlie Gard, who has a rare genetic condition that means he can’t move his arms or legs or breathe unaided, is at the centre of a historic legal battle between his parents and the British Supreme Court, who say that the child’s condition is untreatable and that flying him to the US for unproven treatment would only prolong his suffering.
The family has so far raised over $AUD2 million to fund their baby’s treatment but are unable to use it because of the court’s ruling.
Trump’s offer to help is a nice change from the usual bombast and bullying that he enjoys on Twitter, but belies the closed perspective of an ignorant and dangerous man.
If he really cared about little babies, he would take a long hard look at his party’s healthcare bill which is currently languishing in the Senate, but will likely be passed in some form in the coming months. As it stands, the bill will end Medicaid expansion to the States which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates will see 15 million Americans losing their healthcare coverage. With 60 per cent of America’s children relying on Medicaid, this will disproportionately affect the little babies and children Trump professes to care so deeply about. That will mean a lot more babies like Charlie Gard will face illness and even death right in President Trump’s backyard - a fact even more tragic because, unlike Gard, their illnesses may be treatable.
Trump’s response echoes his kneejerk decision to launch missiles a Syrian airbase in April after he saw pictures of “innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies” poisoned by a chemical attack authorised by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. While the strike may have been a proportional response to that particular incident, it once more shows Trump’s tin-ear and ignorance of the broader effects of war. Many, many more innocent babies and children have been killed by Assad’s regime – around 55,000 at the time of his missile launch – but in more conventional ways. Because President Trump hasn’t seen pictures of them, they may as well not have happened.
Equally, the President’s obsession with enacting a “Muslim Ban” – or to call it by its new, softened name, a “Travel Ban” – will indirectly cause children to die. The executive order, which was partially endorsed by the Supreme Court last month, will condemn thousands more babies and children – just as innocent, just as adorable – to death in refugee camps as they’re denied access to safety in the US.
And this is before we consider Trump’s plans to cut foreign aid by a mammoth 32 per cent – a move that will cause the death of thousands, if not millions, from the effects of famine, disaster and the resurgence of diseases like AIDS.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about his plans to neuter domestic and international environmental policies, such as his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord that condemns the planet to an inevitable temperature rise that will wipe out populations and spread famine and disease, and his plans to slash his own Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 per cent, which will lead to poorer air and water quality for American citizens – that’s right, including sweet, lovable babies.
Policies save lives. Saccharin tweets do not
Trump is incapable of having an emotional response to anything that doesn’t involve a tearjerking photo and a personal story. He is uniquely unable to understand that policies aren’t just irritating bits of paper that his advisers are trying desperately to force him to take an interest in.
His policies, his pronouncements, his laws and his flamboyant executive orders affect people’s lives. Many of them will end people’s lives. Even the lives of tiny, innocent babies.
Charlie Gard’s story is a tragedy. It’s heartbreaking that his parents are forced to watch their little boy lose his brave battle with the illness that was always going to take his life. But what a legacy it would be to his memory if the President found a way to redirect or at least expand his concern towards the thousands, millions of little innocent babies worldwide, that he is in the unique position to save.