An international organization, The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, recently co-organized an event to advocate for people with Down Syndrome at the 37th session of the UN’s Human Rights Council.
On March 15, two human rights speakers with Down Syndrome gave moving and powerful testimonies in an effort to put an end to the termination by abortion of people like them.
John Franklin Stephens and Charlotte Fien spoke to the Council detailing their everyday lives and highlighting their successes in an effort to prove that people with Down Syndrome can live full lives.
Stephens is an actor, author, Special Olypmics athlete and an advocate for people like him.
Stephens continued, stating that individuals like him should be seen “as a human being, not a birth defect.” He said people like him need not be “eradicated or cured but rather loved, valued, educated, and sometimes helped.”
Stephens went on to list the many ways to help and encourage parents, families, and those with Down Syndrome to help them function in society. Those ways include early training for parents of Down syndrome babies, medical care such as eye exams and glasses, job training to help them become self-sufficient, and including them in society the same as everyone else.
“A life with Down Syndrome can be as full and exciting as any other,” Stephens said.
Stephens noted that genomic research is not going to stop at screening for Down Syndrome.
“We have an opportunity right now to slow down and think about the ethics of deciding that certain humans do not get a chance at life,” he said.
He continued, “Let us pledge together to welcome diversity. Let us decide from this day forward to include, not exclude; educate, not isolate; and celebrate, not terminate.”
The event coincided with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. Poland, the Philippines, Argentina, Panama, Lithuania and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta were the countries involved in helping organize the event.