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Iceland claims to have nearly eradicated Down’s syndrome. But it’s not because the country’s leading scientists and doctors have discovered a cure or treatment. Rather, they opt to eliminate diagnosed babies in the womb.
“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,” says geneticist Kari Stefansson, the founder of deCODE Genetics. “It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling. 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.”
According to the National Review,prenatal testing is optional in Iceland, but the government mandates that doctors notify women of that option. About 85 percent of expectant mothers undergo the test, and close to 100 percent of those women choose to abort if their child is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Just two children with Down syndrome are born in Iceland each year, often as the result of faulty testing.
The idea of eradication through termination is spreading, though.
Other countries aren’t lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity—and Down syndrome is included in this category.
In a letter to Charisma readers, cultural commentator Dr. Michael Brown asked:
But when it comes to the subject of abortion, whether it’s one of my articles that gets a lot of circulation on other conservative sites or whether it’s someone else’s article, there doesn’t seem to be as much interest here.
I know you care about the justice.
I believe you care about the unborn.
Yet somehow articles on abortion do not seem to get your interest. Why is that?
Is it because we’ve been fighting this battle for decades and it seems old?
Is it because it doesn’t relate to you as much on a daily basis?
Is it because the church as a whole remains insensitive to this life-and-death issue?
But there are some who still fight to protect the unborn.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic with a ministry to people who are disabled, says:
Over 25 years ago when I served on the National Council on Disability, we responded vehemently against a report from the National Institutes of Health which listed abortion as a “disability prevention strategy.” All 15 bipartisan council members strongly advised the NIH to remove any reference which used abortion as a tactic in eliminating disability.
Yet now, just over 25 years later, Europe is outpacing America in eradicating certain disabilities through abortion—a prime example is the recent CBS report highlighting Iceland’s 100 percent abortion rate of unborn children with Down syndrome. To me, this is the ultimate form of discrimination against people with disabilities, and I join fellow disability advocates in denouncing abortion as a strategy to limit the numbers of people who have Downs.
Each individual, no matter how significantly impaired, is an image-bearer of our Creator God. And people with Down syndrome are arguably some of the most contented and happy people on the planet. From them, we learn unconditional love and joyful acceptance of others who appear different. Now, even that is in jeopardy of being eradicated.
Actress Patricia Heaton blasted the CBS report, as well.
Jessilyn Justice is the director of online news for Charisma. Born and raised in a pastor’s family in Alabama, she attended Lee University and the Washington Journalism Center. She’s passionate about sharing God’s goodness through storytelling. Tell her what you think of this story on Twitter @jessilynjustice.
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Love For His People, Inc. founded in 2010 by Steve & Laurie Martin. Charlotte, NC USA
STEVE & LAURIE MARTIN - LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE FOUNDERS
My good wife Laurie and I (45 years in October 2022!), through the ministry of Love For His People we founded in 2010, give love and support for our friends in Israel and in other nations with friendship, humanitarian aid, and social media support, along with Steve's messages, and our Ahava Adventures trips to Israel.
Steve has also authored and published 34 books.
We live in the Charlotte, NC area. We have four adult children, spouses, and eight grandkids.