On Wednesday, Frank Stephens, who has Down syndrome and also has had a successful career as an actor, gave a powerfully moving and poignant speech before Congress as he combated those who would abort fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, telling a congressional committee that proponents of aborting fetuses with Down syndrome are pushing a “final solution” and asserting that his life is “worth living.”
He plaintively asked, “Seriously, I don’t feel I should have to justify my existence. Is there really no place for us in the world? Surely happiness is worth something.”
Stephens referred to a recent report stating that almost 100% of unborn babies with Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland, and mentioned high termination rates in Denmark and South Korea.
Appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Stephens stated:
Whatever you learn today, please remember this: I am a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living. … Some people say prenatal screens will identify Down syndrome in the womb, and those pregnancies will just be terminated. It’s hard for me to sit here and say those words. I completely understand that the people pushing this particular “final solution” are saying that people like me should not exist. … But to those who question the value of people with Down syndrome, I would make three points: First, we are a medical gift to society, a blueprint for medical research into cancer, Alzheimer’s, and immune system disorders.
On a deeply personal note, I cannot tell you how much it means to me that my extra chromosome might lead to the answer to Alzheimer’s. It’s likely that one day this thief will steal my memories, my very life from me. This is very hard for me to say, but it has already begun to steal my mom from me.
Please, think about all those people you love the way I love my mom. Help us make this difference, if not for me and my mom, then for you and the ones you love. Fund this research. Let’s be America, not Iceland or Denmark. Let’s pursue answers, not final solutions. Let’s be America. Let’s make our goal to be Alzheimer’s free, not Down syndrome free.