Nearly 100 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland, according to CBS News.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2017
In a report from Iceland, “CBSN: On Assignment” said that since screening tests were introduced in the country in the early 2000s, almost 100 percent of women who received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis terminated their pregnancy. According to CBS, abortion is legal in Iceland after 16 weeks “if the fetus has a deformity.”
While Iceland’s Down syndrome termination rate is high, other countries aren’t far behind. According to CBS News, in France, 77 percent of women who received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis terminated their pregnancies in 2015 and 98 percent did so in Denmark. In the United States, that rate is estimated to be 67 percent.
CBS News noted that the screening test is only 85 percent accurate.
When Thordis Ingadottir discovered she was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40, she underwent the screening test. The results showed her odds of having a child with Down syndrome were only 1 in 1,600. Ingadottir’s daughter Agusta, who is now 7, was diagnosed with Down syndrome after her birth in 2009.
Ingadottir told CBS News that Agusta was one of only three children born with Down syndrome in the country that year. In contrast, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born each year in the United States.
Ingadottir has since become an activist fighting for the rights of people with Down syndrome in Iceland.
“I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That’s my dream,” Ingadottir said of her daughter. “Isn’t that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?”
Geneticist Kari Stefansson, the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that studies the Icelandic population’s genomes, told CBS News: “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore.”
Stefansson said the Down syndrome termination rate “reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling” in the country with a population of around 330,000.
“And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”
Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality at Landspítali University Hospital in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. She told CBS News that she tells women, who are wrestling feelings of guilt about the decision to abort, that “This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like.”
“We don’t look at abortion as a murder,” Olafsdottir said. “We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication … preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is gray.”
Actress Patricia Heaton criticized the report, tweeting that “Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down Syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it.”
“Big difference,” she noted.
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) August 15, 2017
Other Twitter users criticized the report as well:
My brother has down syndrome. People are eliminating humans that bring so much joy and learning, just heartbreaking!https://t.co/jexE6H0lDy
— Lauretta Brown (@LaurettaBrown6) August 15, 2017
Not this one pic.twitter.com/xHzmWaUfBV
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) August 15, 2017
Eliminate Down syndrome? Or eliminate the people? Can we recognize a difference? https://t.co/Fixp6qxLRd
— Jay Nordlinger (@jaynordlinger) August 15, 2017
“Inside the country where down syndrome is disappearing.” Not disappearing, these children are being wiped out! https://t.co/uj7lX6Ghd5
— Kate Bryan (@katembryan) August 15, 2017
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, this has to scare the crap out of you if you are or love someone with a disability. https://t.co/T0Ugkmwopw
— Eric Michael Garcia (@EricMGarcia) August 15, 2017
Treating a class of human beings as disposable and ‘less than’ has a name. It’s called eugenics. Say it. https://t.co/NF1m9CjOum
— Blake Seitz (@BlakeSeitz) August 15, 2017
I often hear people on the left talk about ableism and I can not think of a better example than this. https://t.co/SOXrGB1yLn
— Julie Borowski (@JulieBorowski) August 15, 2017
“Later in the show, we’ll look at the looming Nazi menace. But first: Ain’t eugenics great?” https://t.co/BOWBZRFYcL
— Jim Treacher (@jtLOL) August 15, 2017