The headline is shocking: Down syndrome is virtually disappearing in Iceland.
More accurately, people with Down syndrome are being eliminated in Iceland through abortion.
As prenatal testing becomes more and more widespread across the world, the number of babies born with Down syndrome and other conditions has decreased because when parents opt for screening that reveals an abnormality, many opt to end the pregnancy.
Down syndrome happens when a person has an extra chromosome, which alters development, physical traits, and increases the risk for medical conditions like heart defects and hearing problems.
Life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was only 25 years old in 1983. But now, just a few decades later, life expectancy has dramatically increased to 60 years old.
The National Down Syndrome Society points out that people with Down syndrome can attend school, work, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends, and the community enable people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
In the United States, we don’t know exactly how many pregnancies are terminated following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and other conditions because the data is not collected. But other countries track prenatal diagnosis and abortion data, and the results are telling.
According to CBS News, “The United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015), and in Denmark, 98 percent (2015).”
In Iceland, more than four out of five women have a prenatal screening test and close to 100 percent of women who received a positive test for Down syndrome chose to abort their child.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome every year in the United States. Imagine if nearly 100 percent of those people had been aborted instead.
What happens when a person’s perceived quality of life becomes more important than the value of life itself? Down syndrome and other conditions don’t negate the inherent dignity and worth of a person, born or unborn.
Our dignity and worth as human beings doesn’t lie in our characteristics or our capabilities. Life is the most basic human freedom of all.
Advancing this fundamental truth in public policy and day-to-day interactions with our neighbors will hasten the day that every human being, from the moment of conception, is protected in law and welcomed in life.