“I’m a man with Down syndrome and my life is worth living.”
Those were Frank Stephen’s words in his testimony before Congress. He received a standing ovation from everyone in the room, and ever since, his words have been on my heart.
I’m a pro-life mom to three children, Cole, Grace, and Brynn. Cole’s my oldest, and he’s a great big brother to his sisters. He’s an awesome basketball player, loves school, and enjoys math. In fact, he completes his multiplication tables faster than most kids in his class. Like other 11 year old boys, Cole dreams of his future career as a firefighter, football player, or a race car drive. And just like Frank Stephens, Cole has Down syndrome.
People with Down syndrome are born with a full or partial copy of chromosome 21. It’s the most common chromosomal condition. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with it.
Today, the value of their lives is under attack. In Iceland, nearly 100 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome after prenatal testing are aborted. Here in America, that number is between 67-85 percent. Last year, a Washington Post columnist wrote that “I can say without hesitation…I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.”
When I read this, I was deeply saddened that someone would view a child with Down syndrome as only a liability, not an asset. The value of human life is a timeless principle we must always cherish. The measure of a person’s value is not how much their lives may cost. Becoming a parent and having a child is overwhelming no matter who you are. You never know what challenges are ahead even if your child isn’t born with Down syndrome. But just because something is tough or uncertain doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable or worthy.
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Every person born with Down syndrome is unique from day one. That includes people like my son Cole and Frank Stephens. People like Evan Henniger who is earning his college degree at Washington State University in my district. Kate Grant, a model who is a brand ambassador for Benefit Cosmetics. Andrew Self, a dancer, who competed on The Greatest Dancer. Blake Pyron, who runs his own snow cone business in Texas. And my friend, Kayla McKeon, who is the first person with Down syndrome to be a registered lobbyist on Capitol Hill.
I’m inspired by their stories, which make me even more grateful for all the fellow warriors for human dignity who are marching for life. To all those marching, thank you. Thank you for standing up for the dignity of every person, especially those with Down syndrome.
Together, we need to be more committed than ever to protecting people when they are most vulnerable. That means, from the moment of conception and beyond, empowering every person to reach their full potential, no matter the challenges they may face.
Cole, Frank, Evan, Kate, Andrew, Blake, Kayla and so many others are all unique with their own dreams and aspirations. What unites them is they are showing the world what’s possible for people with Down syndrome. Without question, their lives are worth living.
LifeNews Note: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is serving her eighth term representing the 5th District of Washington. She is a senior member and leading Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the most senior Republican woman in Washington state. She is the first woman to have given birth three times while serving in Congress. Follow her on twitter @cathymcmorris.