That was the headline on cbsnews.com introducing a story that was also broadcast the night before on the network’s news program, On Assignment. The rest of the headline read, “Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing.” The CBS News Twitter feed advertising the broadcast stated, “Iceland is on the path to eliminating Down syndrome through abortion.”
There has been a great deal of discussion, accusation, and debate recently about “fake news.” Here we have evidence of modern day yellow journalism. Contrary to what this headline communicates, in the north Atlantic nation of Iceland Down syndrome is not disappearing or being eliminated. The number of incidents of babies conceived with this genetic disorder has not declined. What has happened is that in Iceland nearly 100% of the babies who through prenatal screening are diagnosed likely to have Down syndrome are killed through abortion. Iceland is not eliminating this disorder. Instead, in Iceland almost all the babies that have Downs are being exterminated before they are born. How about killing all deaf people and then proclaiming that hearing loss had been eradicated? How absurd!
What a wonderful thing it would be if the medical community in Iceland discovered a treatment or cure for this disorder! While the severity of the disabilities associated with Down syndrome vary, its growth problems and intellectual disabilities can make life with this abnormality very challenging. But because a life has challenges does not mean a life has no purpose, or no value. The CBS report did acknowledge that people with Downs can lead “full lives.” The CBS reporter interviewed a woman with Downs living independently in Iceland. She lamented that in Iceland “people see Downs. They don’t see me… I want people to see that I am just like everybody else.”
Sad it is, then, that women who find out their child may have Down syndrome and are wrestling with uncertainty or guilt over the idea of abortion are regularly encouraged to terminate their pregnancy. CBS interviewed a hospital counselor who tells expectant mothers, “This is your life – you have the right to choose how your life will look like.”
Again, no, it is not your life. It is the child’s life. And it is God’s life.
Scripture makes plain that man was made in the image of God. And that likeness to God and its attendant value and dignity extends beyond Adam and Eve to all their descendents. (Gen. 9:6; Js. 3:9) Scripture also tells us the disabled and handicapped are the special creation of God no less than the healthy and whole. (Ex. 4:11)
Advocates of the so-called “pro-choice” position seem to have no problem protesting against the monstrous practice of sex-selection abortions practiced commonly in communist China. After all, they argue, women and men are of equal worth. But so are the handicapped and disabled. So are children with Down syndrome.
“What kind of a society do you want to live in?” I would prefer a society that values all people, regardless of sex, race, age, health, or handicap. I certainly would not choose to live in a society in which eugenics is practiced in order to exterminate those deemed undesirable. Unfortunately, no one is offering that choice to the Down syndrome children of Iceland. Instead, they are being denied the right to live.