The low number of children born with Down syndrome in Iceland has caused a stir after CBS‘s report on the matter aired earlier this week.
Since prenatal screenings, which are available to all expecting mothers in Iceland, were introduced around the turn of the century, around 80 to 85 percent of expectant mothers have chosen to take it. Of those testing positive for Down syndrome, close to a 100 percent have chosen to terminate the pregnancy.
According to Hulda Hjartardóttir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspítali University Hospital, children with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland: “Some of them were low risk in our screening test, so we didn’t find them in our screening.”
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was very critical of the situation in Iceland in wake of CBS‘s report, saying that she couldn’t finish watching without her “heart breaking”. “To try to snuff out a life in the name of building a perfect race hearkens back to Nazi Germany,”
Palin, who herself has a nine-year-old son with Down syndrome, claimed that Iceland wouldn’t be so beautiful would it continue on this path.
Senator Ted Cruz joined Palin in criticizing Iceland, claiming on Twitter that children with Down syndrome „should be cherished, not ended“.
Truly sad. News celebrating Iceland’s “100% termination rate” for children w/ Downs Syndrome. Downs children should be cherished, not ended. https://t.co/GEJGPcFLQg
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 15, 2017
During an interview with Icelandic TV station Stöð 2, Kári Stefánsson, geneticist and founder of deCODE Genetics, claimed the controversy stemmed primarily from conservative Americans who were simply responding to the issue of abortions, having relatively little to do with Down syndrome.
According to Kári, a community that accepts abortions shouldn’t‘ have many problems with women testing positive with Down syndrome who decide to terminate their pregnancy. Regardless, it is important for the Icelandic community to discuss the issue further: „It appears that we as a community have decided that it‘s all right and maybe right and ideal to terminate a fetus with chromosome defects, whether that is right or not I do not know.“