Iceland is 'eradicating' Down syndrome…by aborting everyone who has it

Close to 100% of parents

In a report from Iceland, "CBSN: On Assignment" said that since screening tests were introduced in the country in the early 2000s, nearly 100 percent of women who received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis terminated their pregnancy.

Emmy award-winning actress Patricia Heaton tweeted August 14 in response to the CBS report: "Iceland isn't actually eliminating Down syndrome. Who are they without love, without that respect for the sanctity of all life?"

Sol Olafsdottir speaks to women in Iceland whose unborn babies are diagnosed with a chromosomal abnormality.

Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, also reacts to the story, saying it's "just one more step down the road of becoming a culture that devalues human life and sees people with disabilities, whether cognitive or physical, as less than everyone else". "Down syndrome is not a death sentence, and it is monstrous to suggest otherwise". The low rates in Iceland are due to a policy which states that all pregnant women in the country are informed about the test for down syndrome, and nearly 100% of women who show a fetus with a positive test for Down syndrome terminate the pregnancy.

CBS News noted that the screening test is only 85 percent accurate.

The fact-checking site Snopes adds an important qualification to the picture.

A story by CBS News about the declining number of Down syndrome births in Iceland has caused an uproar, with conservative critics accusing the story of celebrating abortion and others lashing out at Iceland itself. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.

On average, only two babies with Down syndrome are born per year in Iceland.

Sarah Palin has slammed Iceland for its abortion policy after it was revealed the Nordic country terminates more than 99 per cent of babies with Down's syndrome. The Unites States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent, based on figures between 1995-2011, while across northern Europe termination rates are generally high.

There are organizations that, rather than focusing on screening and abortion, actively pursue research about how to treat Down syndrome such as the Jerome Lejeune Foundation which is based in France and plans to open a special hospital in the US.

Reportedly the risk a child is diagnosed with Down syndrome increases as the mother ages. Image Credit Charity Sub
Reportedly the risk a child is diagnosed with Down syndrome increases as the mother ages. Image Credit Charity Sub

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". Dr Stefansson said, "It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling and I don't think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable".

While she praised Iceland as a "beautiful country", Palin added that "I think Iceland won't be so attractive if they continue down this path of being so intolerant to the degree of trying to snuff out the life of those who maybe do not look like the subjective view of someone that would equate to perfection".

She continued, "You know when you consider that a Down syndrome child, their skin is a little bit different".

Through a social media campaign, the March for Life organization is asking CBS to "air a segment about the happiness and benefits Down syndrome children bring to families", according to a tweet by March for Life president Jeanne Mancini Aug. 15.

After a Dutch newspaper reported that "a child with Down syndrome costs 1 to 2 million Euros", Patrick Willems - CEO of the Belgian lab "Gendia" - said that "preventing the birth of 50 babies with Down syndrome will offset the costs of fully implementing the Nipt [non-invasive prenatal testing] into Dutch public healthcare".

One such case was that of Thordis Ingadottir, who took the screening test when she was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40.

Ingadottir has since become an activist fighting for the rights of people with Down syndrome in Iceland. "That's my dream", Ingadottir said of her daughter.

On Twitter, CBS promoted their report: "What kind of society do you want to live in?": "Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing" which prompted Heaton, an honorary chair of the organization Feminists for Life, to publicly respond.

"What's so very awful to the world about Down syndrome?"

"(These parents)...deserve love and support that will benefit their growing families, and abortion fails categorically to deliver on its false promises to benefit families, individuals and society as a whole", he said.

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