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“Let’s be America, not Iceland or Denmark”: Frank Stephens’ powerful testimony against targeting unborn babies with Down syndrome

by | Nov 1, 2017

By Dave Andrusko

Last week we posted a brief, but extraordinary post from our friend Wesley J. Smith. Wesley referred his readers to testimony given by Frank Stephens to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on October 25. (You can watch him deliver his remarks at youtube.com.)

Mr. Stephens said he shouldn’t have to but that he felt almost as if he had to “justify my existence.” Mr. Stephens, among other accomplishments a board member of Global Down Syndrome, has Down syndrome.

In a world where countries, like Iceland, brag they are, or soon will be, “Down syndrome free,” it’s not surprising Mr. Stephens would use his testimony to educate the members of the subcommittee to this truth: “If you take nothing else away from today’s hearing, please remember this, I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living.”

Let me offer this long excerpt which immediately followed that comment:

Why do I feel the need to make that point? Across the world, a notion is being sold that maybe we don’t need to continue to do research concerning Down syndrome. Why? Because there are pre‐natal screens that will identify Down syndrome in the womb, and we can just terminate those pregnancies. In places as wide‐spread as Iceland, Denmark and South Korea, government officials have proclaimed that these government encouraged terminations will make them “Down syndrome free by 2030.” It is hard for me to sit here and say those words. Let’s be clear, I completely understand that the people pushing that particular “final solution” are saying that people like me should not exist. They are saying that we have too little value to exist.

Mr. Stephens went on to say “That view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome. “ He proceeds to outline all the contributions the Down syndrome community makes to science/medicine and how research has shown that “we make the world a happier, kinder place.” (“A Harvard based study has discovered that people with Down syndrome, as well as their parents and siblings are happier than society at large.”)

Oughtn’t there be room for people with Down syndrome, he asks? Not if you live in (for starters) Iceland Denmark, and South Korea. The animus toward people with Down syndrome can be polite or it can be vicious; it [being aborted] can be “for their own good” or for the most utilitarian of reasons. But it remains the only “respectable” prejudice.

Mr. Stephens ended with this powerful admonition:

Let’s be America, not Iceland or Denmark. Let’s pursue answers, not “final solutions.” Let’s be America. Let’s pursue inclusion, not termination.

Categories: Down Syndrome