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“I Am A Man With Down Syndrome And My Life Is Worth Living”

Imagine having to justify your existence before a congressional sub committee. Frank Stephens testified against those who believe that people with Down Syndrome have no place in this world. His eloquent testimony highlights the contributions people with Down Syndrome make in our society. Dan and Amy discuss Frank Stephens’ moving testimony and why people like Frank make the world a better place (3:36:45-3:48:27). 

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Dan Proft: Alright, I want to switch gears. Because this is, you know, everybody's talking about the same things, we talk about different things. A little bit broader. And this is important, and this is a video that should be, testimony, Congressional testimony, that should be watched by everybody. The gentleman you are going to hear from is Frank Stephens. Frank Stephens has Down Syndrome, he testified before a Congressional subcommittee, a House subcommittee, about that, because of course Down Syndrome has been in the news after...we talked about it on the show, a couple of months ago...reports about Iceland having no Down Syndrome babies born in the last eight years because they've all been aborted, and Denmark claiming a 98% abortion rate for unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and just how ghoulish that is. And think about this, Wesley Smith writing about it in the National Bee Online, puts it well. Think about having to go before a Congressional subcommittee and justify your existence. Well, that's what Frank Stephens did, and he did it in a delightful way, a joyful way, but a substantive way too. Here's how he started addressing members of Congress. Frank Stephens (from tape): Members of the Committee...just so there is no confusion...let me say I am not a research scientist. However, no one knows more about life with Down Syndrome than I do. Proft: And this declaration from Mr. Stephens. Stephens (from tape): Whatever...whatever you learn today, please remember this. I am a man with Down Syndrome, and my life is worth living. *applause* Amy Jacobson: What a sweetheart! Proft: Is he right? Is his life worth living? (312)642-5600 Turnkey.Pro answer line. 64636DA Turnkey.Pro Text Line. In a world of tests that can identify... Jacobson: Everything... Proft: Abnormalities, disabilities, and the incidents of abortion I just described in Iceland and Denmark. In a world where like in Canada you have euthenasia expanding to...well, children...is he right? Is he right? Stephens went on to address the view that people with Down Syndrome shouldn't exist, he shouldn't exist. Imagine doing that before Congress? Stephens (from tape): Sadly, across the world a notion is being sold that...that maybe, we don't need research concerning...concerning Down Syndrome. 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...I completely understand that the people pushing this particular final solution are saying that...that people like me should not exist. That view is DEEPLY prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with...of life with Down Syndrome. Seriously, I have a great life. I have lectured at universities, acted in an award-winning film, and an Emmy-winning TV show, and spoken to thousands of young people about the value of inclusion in making America great. Proft: And Frank Stephens went on to talk about how people with Down Syndrome are a gift, they're a gift to society. In 3 specific ways that he delineated, I'm sure you could add more. Stephens (from tape): I don't feel I should have to justify my existence. But to those who question the value of people with Down Syndrome, I would like...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. Second, we are an unusually powerful source of happiness. A Harvard-based study has discovered that people with Down Syndrome, as well as their parents and siblings, are happier than society at large. Surely, happiness is worth something! Finally, we are the canary in the eugenics...in the eugenics coal mine. We are giving the world a chance to think about the ethics of choosing which humans get a chance at life. So, we are helping to defeat cancer and Alzheimer's, and we make the world a happier place. Is there really no place for us in....in the world? Proft: What about...ahem...what about that question? Is there no place for Frank Stephens in the world? (312)642-5600 Turnkey.Pro answer line. Understand the...the trade-off that Frank Stephens is talking about. And I've been fortunate enough to have some exposure to persons with Down Syndrome and disabilities, intellectual and developmental disabilities through Envision Chicago and other good organizations that provide services to this population. So...and the state should as well. In Illinois, we do a TERRIBLE job like we do everything else, but other states provide humane services too. So think about the trade-off. We provide some services for individuals with intellectual and developmental challenges to get through their everyday life, and enrich their life a little bit. And in exchange, they provide joy and make us more fully human. Is that a good deal? I think it's a good deal. Jacobson: Should we end genetic testing? I mean our gynocologists, every time you're pregnant they're like "Well, we'll see if your child has Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida"...or whatever, there's a myriad of genetic disorders... Proft: Mmhmm. Jacobson: ..that you check, and you know, I didn't even bother doing it the first time around, you know what, I don't even want to know because I don't want to have that decision, to try and make a decision. It's the same decision Sarah Palin faced! Sarah Palin knew her son was going to be born with Down Syndrome... Proft: Yeah. Jacobson: And she made the right choice. I think. I mean, it was her choice, but I think she made the right one. Proft: I hope Frank Stephens' testimony goes viral, so we Tweeted it out, it's on my Facebook page, pick it up, you should watch it, all 7 minutes, yourself, and you should also share it. Important questions he raises, I think, and does so in a very thoughtful and compelling way. Alan in Rockford, you're on Chicago's Morning Answer. Alan (Caller): Good morning. I think the notion of filtering out people before they're born based on potential birth defects or mental defects is sickening. I can speak from personal experience, my daughter was told that our...her first was going to have Spina Bifida and, perhaps, Down Syndrome. And it scared the you-know-what out of all of us, and what we got was absolutely the opposite. We got a 5 year old that's a rocket on legs, and can read, and can carry on conversations...and what if a bad decision would have been made, and we wouldn't have received the blessing that we have? This whole notion is sick! Proft: Thanks for the call, Alan. Allan in Glen Ellyn? Allan (Caller): Good morning! I just wanted to share a story I saw years ago. Gene Stallings, former head football coach at the University of Alabama... Proft: Yeah? Allan (Caller): He had a son with Down Syndrome, Mark, who has since passed away. In any rate, he did a long speech on him, and they're showing him at the family home, and they're actually doing things that fathers and sons do. And at the end of the speech, he said, "If I had a choice...if God came to me and said 'Gene, I could give you a perfectly healthy son, or give you Mark,'" he goes, "I would without hesitation, I would take Mark," his son with Down Syndrome. So, take that, you people who think there's no value in life! Proft: Thanks for the call, Allan. Great story. Ralph, in Rantoul? Ralph (Caller): Yeah, good morning. I guess the question we should be asking is whose idea of perfection are we going to enact? Because what we're talking about here is somebody deciding that Down Syndrome babies shouldn't...what's next? I think what *unintelligible* trying to minimize the birth rate of minorities? *unintelligible* it would be ghoulish, because it IS ghoulish. So instead of talking about the Down Syndrome question...and again, what's next? Who's idea is it...people with blonde hair, brown eyes...maybe Randy Newman will chime in! Proft: Thanks for the call Ralph. Yeah I mean, the whole...the new eugenics, as it were. Tom, on 57? Tom (Caller): Yeah, it was kind of nice to hear him, just the fact that this is even a discussion...it's almost out of the Nazi playbook. *unintelligible* It's very Margaret Sanger-ish, and just...I'll leave you with this, if they can screen for everything, maybe if you look in the crime stats, I'm pretty sure there's not a lot of Down Syndrome criminals. I think they're delightful, and they're nice. They're nice people! Proft: Thanks for the call, Tom.

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