A CBS News report suggesting that Iceland has virtually eliminated Down syndrome through abortion is making conservatives angry.
A controversial policy in Iceland suggests that expectant mothers are simply aborting a child whenever they’re told the fetus will have Down syndrome, leading to the elimination of the disorder in the country, but the truth is more complicated than that. It all started with an Aug. 14 CBS News story that reported the country was seeing Down syndrome disappearing due to prenatal screening tests introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, leading to criticism from conservative groups.
However, while Icelandic doctors areindeed required to tell expectant mothers about a screening test that is available to them that could tell them if their fetus has Down syndrome, among other things, the government of Iceland does not mandate abortions for fetuses that test positive for Down syndrome, and in fact they don’t even mandate that mothers take the test.
CBS News reported that about 80 to 85 percent of pregnant woman choose to take the screening test. The news has prompted conservative outlets to label it as a mandated eugenics program. However, the report actually says that nearly 100 percent of the 80 to 85 percent of women who take the test choose to end a pregnancy that involves a fetus with Down syndrome. And babies with Down syndrome continue to be born in Iceland despite this.
The CBS News report resulted in condemnation from some conservative voices on Twitter.
“Truly sad. News celebrating Iceland’s “100% termination rate” for children w/ Downs Syndrome. Downs children should be cherished, not ended,” Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted.
In an article for the Rykjavik Grapevine in Iceland titled “No, Icelanders are not required to abort fetuses with Down syndrome,” Paul Fontain wrote: “For the record, there is no requirement whatsoever for women to accept screening, let alone terminate their pregnancies if Down Syndrome indications are detected, and that there are many Icelanders of all ages with Down Syndrome is easily verifiable. Kári Stefánsson addressed the controversy on public broadcasting this morning.”
He added: “Kári said that Palin and Cruz are speaking from a conservative point of view that life begins at conception and is sacred, adding that western society has decided that it is natural for a woman to terminate a pregnancy if she elects to do so. However, he added, ‘I agree with society’s decision but I don’t think it’s one we take lightly. … The moral questions that arise are very complicated, and in some cases impossible to reconcile.’”