Iceland isn’t eliminating Down syndrome from its population by mandating mothers to abort unborn children who tested positive for the genetic condition.
In an in-depth report recently released by CBS News, it was revealed that the occurrence of Down syndrome in the Icelandic population is diminishing. Correspondent Elaine Quijano travelled all the way to Iceland to report that the country is getting rid of the condition through abortion.
However, some have misinterpreted the report and suggested that Iceland actually requires abortion of all unborn children with Down syndrome. Snopes corrected the reports that surfaced.
The truth is, Icelandic mothers-to-be can avail a prenatal test that would tell the possibility of their babies having Down syndrome. The genetic test is available at the Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavic and while 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women undergo the screening, it isn’t mandatory for everyone.
The government, however, is required to tell all pregnant women that the screening which is called “The Combination Test” may be availed. The syndrome is often undetected until the second trimester, but Iceland permits termination of pregnancies even after 16 weeks in case of fetal deformities.
As per the report, “100 percent of pregnant women whose prenatal tests have came back positive for Down syndrome have decided to end their pregnancies” because of their yearning to free their unborn children from suffering.
While Down syndrome is a lifelong condition, children born with it can still have productive lives if given proper care and support.
“Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at the Landspitali hospital, told CBS. Since the test is only 85 percent accurate, she said some unborn babies show low risk in the screening making their Down syndrome undetectable.
In the hospital, it is Helga Sol Olafsdottir’s job to counsel women bearing children with the said chromosomal condition. She helps women decide if they should continue or terminate their pregnancies.
Olafsdottir tells the news outlet that as opposed to some people’s perspectives, they don’t view abortion as murder.
“We don’t look at abortion as a murder. 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 grey.”
Icelandic women who decide to terminate their pregnancies are given prayer cards in which the termination date and footprints of their unborn babies are inscribed.
Some activists still believe that Iceland’s promotion of its genetic test encourages women to consider pregnancy termination. As a response, families across the globe have started to share photos of their children with Down syndrome using the hashtag, #LIFEisBetterWithYou. “Blessings not burdens,” one photo read.
What are your insights on Iceland’s belief?
[Featured Image by DenKuvaiev/iStock]