In a testimony that brought tears to my eyes, Frank Stephens recently told a congressional committee that, although he has Down syndrome, his life is certainly worth living.
Appearing before the committee, Stephens had one simple goal: to convince its members that the genetic war on Down has got to stop. So when he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to discuss the state of medical research on Down, he directly addressed those who want to use abortion to wipe Down off the face of the earth.
“Whatever you learn today, please remember this: I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living,” Stephens said. “I completely understand that the people pushing this particular ‘final solution’ are saying that people like me should not exist. That view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome.”
Stephens should know. Although he has a third copy of chromosome 21, he has been living a very successful life. He is an actor, screenwriter, a motivational speaker, and a Down syndrome activist who has not only won awards in the movie world but who has also visited the White House. “And I didn’t have to jump the fence either time,” he says about his invitations to meet the American president.
“Seriously, I don’t feel I should have to justify my existence. Is there really no place for us in the world?” Stephens asked the committee.
Of course there should be. Sadly, however, that’s rapidly changing. Increasingly, in more developed countries, prenatal screening tests are used to identify fetuses with Down syndrome after which they’re immediately aborted. This practice is especially common in Iceland, where Down has been all but eliminated, and Denmark. Even in a supposedly “tolerant” country like the Netherlands abortions are performed in more than 90 percent of the cases in which the unborn baby has been discovered to have Down.
In other words, sad as it may sound, Stephens’ question is highly relevant. The “final solution” he criticizes is real and already being implemented in Europe. Eugenics is back, and its main victims are unborn children — who, if they had been born, would be as wonderful, kind, open-minded and compassionate as Frank Stephens Their only “sin” is that they’ve got an extra chromosome.