As the issue of Charlie Gard’s right to life — or death — became a public battle between the UK’s National Health Service and the infant’s family, Republicans took up the cause, supporting the idea of bringing the baby to the U.S. for treatment.
The nearly year-old infant died on Friday, following a rare and debilitating genetic disease that prompted the hospital treating him in Central London to recommend that the baby be taken off life support. Gard’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, had fought this outcome over several months, seeking legal action to prevent the death of their son. Part of their case hinged on the assertions of a Columbia-based doctor whose experimental treatment had the potential to help Charlie Gard’s condition. The couple raised $1.7 million through a social media-driven, crowd-funding effort to potentially take their child to the U.S. for treatment.
As news about the couple’s legal battle made headlines, Republicans began weighing in. On July 3, President Trump tweeted: “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”
The Pope had also publicly expressed support for finding a medical treatment to help the child.
On July 18, the House Committee on Appropriations voted unanimously to approve an amendment granting permanent residency to Charlie, in order to accommodate the parents’ wishes to bring him to the U.S. for treatment. “Parents have the most at stake when it comes to standing up for their children and right now, we have an incredible opportunity to stand with a family and save a child’s life,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry echoed this on Twitter, asserting Charlie could now get the “treatment he needs.”
Still, the UK’s National Health Service would not grant permission for Charlie to travel, stating that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the experimental treatment would do the child any good, and that moving him would only cause further suffering.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted his condolences to the family of Charlie Gard. “Saddened to hear of the passing of Charlie Gard. Karen & I offer our prayers & condolences to his loving parents during this difficult time,” he said.
Republican support for Charlie Gard touches on a couple of issues dear to the party; among them, the individual’s ability to choose their healthcare options — if they can afford it — and a parent’s right to control the care of a child and overrule the opinions of the state.
In July, Dr. Michio Hirano — who pioneered the experimental treatment Charlie’s parents hoped would help their son — traveled to the UK to examine Charlie in person. A series of scans determined that Charlie had suffered muscular atrophy and that the treatment would be futile in light of the severe damage done by his disease. It was at this point that Charlie’s parents decided to give up their legal fight to have him taken to the U.S.