Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eliminating Down syndrome

Actress Patricia Heaton was one of many to slam CBS News for a recently published story about Iceland “eliminating” Down syndrome.

Only Iceland isn’t eliminating Down Syndrome; It’s eliminating the people who have Down Syndrome, critics exclaimed in response to a CBS tweet that said: “Iceland is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion.”

“Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down Syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference,” said Heaton’s tweet, which received 22,000 “favorites” as of Wednesday morning.

The CBS News article says nearly 100 percent of women who received a positive test for Down syndrome in their prenatal screening tests terminated their pregnancy. While the prenatal test itself is not required, all expectant mothers must be informed of the availability of the test. About 85 percent opt to take it.

The result leaves only about two children born with Down syndrome each year, and oftentimes it’s because the screening tests fail, the article says.

PHOTO: CBS News via Twitter

Three children with Down syndrome were born in 2009, according to the article. The mother of one of them took the prenatal test, but was told her chances of having a child with Down syndrome were only 1 in 1,600. (She has now become an advocate for people with Down syndrome).

Critics of the CBS story ranted about how those quoted in it celebrated the “elimination,” such as Helga Sol Olafsdottir, a women at Landspitali who counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality.

“We don’t look at abortion as murder,” Olafsdottir said in the article. “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.”

Among dozens of rebukes by others on Twitter, Sen. Ted Cruz also criticized CBS’s tweet.
“Truly sad. News celebrating Iceland’s ‘100% termination rate’ for children w/Downs Syndrome. Downs children should be cherished, not ended,” Cruz tweeted.

The CBS article said many other countries are not far from Iceland’s termination rate. The United States terminates about 67 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies, France about 77 percent, and Denmark 98 percent, according to the report.

Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, the mother of a child with Down syndrome, criticized the nation in the north Atlantic.

“Iceland is such a beautiful country,” Palin said to Fox News. “When I was governor here I met with the president of Iceland and we talked about our beautiful regions of the world and the beautiful people who live there, the hardworking people with such great hearts. And I think, ‘Iceland won’t be so beautiful if they continue down this path of being so intolerant to the degree of trying to snuff out the life of those who maybe do not look like the subjective view of someone that would equate to perfection.’”



  1. With a population of around 330,000, Iceland has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year, sometimes after their parents received inaccurate test results. (In the U.S., according to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born each year.)

    "Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland," said Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, where around 70 percent of Icelandic children are born. "Some of them were low risk in our screening test, so we didn't find them in our screening."

    When Thordis Ingadottir was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40, she took the screening test. The results showed her chances of having a child with Down syndrome were very slim, odds of 1 in 1,600. However, the screening test is only 85 percent accurate. That year, 2009, three babies were born with Down syndrome in Iceland, including Ingadottir's daughter Agusta, who is now 7.

    According to Ingadottir, three babies born with Down syndrome is "quite more than usual. Normally there are two, in the last few years." Since the birth of her daughter, Ingadottir has become an activist for the rights of people with Down syndrome.

    As Agusta grows up, "I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That's my dream," Ingadottir said. "Isn't that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?"

    Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population's genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. "My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society -- that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore," he said.

    Quijano asked Stefansson, "What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?"

    "It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling," he said. "And I don't think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You're having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way."

    Stefansson noted, "I don't think there's anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision."

    According to Hjartardottir, "We try to do as neutral counseling as possible, but some people would say that just offering the test is pointing you towards a certain direction." Indeed, more than 4 out of 5 pregnant women in Iceland opt for the prenatal screening test...

    Over at Landspitali University Hospital, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. They speak to her when deciding whether to continue or end their pregnancies. Olafsdottir tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: "This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like."

    She showed Quijano a prayer card inscribed with the date and tiny footprints of a fetus that was terminated.

    Quijano noted, "In America, I think some people would be confused about people calling this 'our child,' saying a prayer or saying goodbye or having a priest come in -- because to them abortion is murder."

  2. One might be forgiven for assuming that Iceland has developed an innovative treatment for the chromosomal disorder. It turns out Iceland’s solution is much simpler, and much more sinister: using prenatal testing and abortion to systematically exterminate children with Down syndrome. This isn’t progress; it’s eugenics...

    The CBS article does little to accord this subject the moral gravity it deserves. “Other countries aren’t lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates,” the authors note casually. CBS News’s tweet promoting the story read simply: “Iceland is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion.”...

    What kind of culture does it require to foster such a mindset, to foster a society in which nearly every mother of a Down-syndrome child chooses to abort? Iceland is at the high end of the spectrum in this regard — and was one of the first countries to normalize widespread prenatal testing, in an effort to identify fetal abnormalities and eliminate them through abortion — but it is far from alone...

    Ninety percent of women in the United Kingdom who receive a positive Down-syndrome diagnosis choose to abort. In the U.S., that percentage falls somewhere between 67 and 90, according to a recent meta-study of Down-syndrome termination rates over the last few decades. In Europe as a whole, somewhere around 92 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. This targeting of individuals with Down syndrome is borne out not just in astronomical abortion rates, but in a cultural attitude that often regards them as less than human. (continued)

  3. (continued)In France, for example, the State Council banned from the airwaves a video featuring children with Down syndrome talking about their happy lives. The advertisement was meant to comfort mothers who received a prenatal diagnosis and assure them that their children would have beautiful, largely normal lives. The ad was forbidden by the French government because the smiles of the children would “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices” — in other words, because seeing them happy would upset women who had aborted their Down syndrome children.

    Meanwhile, prenatal testing is praised nearly universally for its ability to give women a full array of “options” for their pregnancies, but many women report feeling pressured by their doctors — whether to be tested in the first place or to choose abortion if the test reveals Down syndrome or other abnormalities. It is taken for granted in the medical community that no woman would carry a Down-syndrome pregnancy to term. This pressure reveals the pervasive belief that selective abortion is somehow an actual health-care solution. Instead of seeking real treatment for the ailments that plague people with Down syndrome, or even finding potential cures, we have settled for a false vision of progress that kills people with a disorder rather than treating them...

    It is in this supposed gray area that the desire to promote health and well-being morphs into the insidious view that people with Down syndrome are better off dead — and that we will be a more advanced society for having relieved them of the burden of a “limited” life. Too many people today believe it is preferable, and indeed more humane, to murder children rather than allow them to suffer. But what life doesn’t have suffering?

    Jerome Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the chromosomal basis for Down syndrome, once offered this perspective: “It cannot be denied that the price of these diseases is high — in suffering for the individual and in burdens for society. Not to mention what parents suffer! But we can assign a value to that price: It is precisely what a society must pay to remain fully human.”

    The title of the CBS piece asks, “What kind of society do you want to live in?” The article’s implicit response seems to be, “One dedicated to eliminating abnormality and suffering by any means necessary.” But no admirable society eradicates suffering by eradicating those who suffer. To achieve true moral progress, we must reject the killing of the vulnerable and condemn any backwards society that promotes such a regime as a solution.

  4. A British court awarded a Down syndrome man nearly $13,000 for the government banning his wife from having sex with him because he, allegedly, couldn't give consent to sex.

    Before the ban, the man, who was not identified, had a healthy sexual relationship with his wife of five years, according to court documents.

    The ban came after a psychologist for a local government entity – which was not identified to shield it from criticism – assessed the 38-year-old man and found him to lack the mental competence to willfully engage in conjugal relations, the court documents say.

    A court council warned his wife that having sex with her husband would make her guilty of a serious crime. The man was ordered to attend a sex education course before he would be allowed to have relations with his wife.

    But the course was delayed for more than year, earning him damages suffered for what the judge, Sir Mark Hedley, said in the court document was the “deprivation for at least 12 months of normal conjugal relations with his wife.”

    The case began after the man’s sister brought her concerns about the course (sic) delays to the Court of Protection.

    "The impact at the time must have been profound, not only for the loss of sexual relations, but for two other matters peculiar to him," Hedley said. “First, he would have been unable to understand why what was happening should be so.”

    "And secondly, in order as she put it, 'not to lead him on,' the wife understandably and foreseeably withdrew to another bedroom and withheld much physical affection."

    The man had to take two courses, because a therapist determined that while he made "sufficient progress” after the first one, he had not yet demonstrated an understanding about sexually transmitted diseases.

    The case, the court document said, is rare because it pertains to a "settled, monogamous and exclusive married relationship."

    Cases that address competence to decide to engage in sex typically involve people seen as vulnerable to being exploited or abused.

    "Many would think that no couple should have had to undergo this highly intrusive move upon their personal privacy, yet such a move was in its essentials entirely lawful and properly motivated," Hedley said.

    "As I have said, perhaps it is part of the inevitable price that must be paid to have a regime of effective safeguarding."

  5. The CBS News headline makes it sound as though a medical miracle has been found: Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome is Disappearing. Imagine that! Imagine science finding a way to "disappear" Down syndrome. This is fantastic news coming out of Iceland.

    How was this accomplished, you ask? Was it through the wonders of DNA research, the miracle of genetic science?

    Sorry, no.

    Iceland is "disappearing" Down syndrome the old-fashioned way. Murder.

    No, really...

    With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.

    Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy. (continued)

  6. (continued)Now, before we get to it, and believe me we are going to get to it, I want to be clear on something. Out of some misguided notion that the handicapped should not be seen as different, I am not one of those who believes we should not do everything science offers to improve the human species. If we are able to use science as a means to cure Down syndrome, deafness, blindness, depression, addiction and a host of other maladies, by all means, go for it.

    For instance, those in the deaf community who rage against cochlear implants... Sorry, that is sheer madness.

    But that is not what is happening in Iceland. To properly compare the two, you have to imagine a world in which we are celebrating the "disappearance" of the deaf because we are murdering the deaf, because we are — as CBS News so helpfully puts it — "eradicating" them from the womb.

    Imagine if someday we are able to "disappear" from our Perfect Society the unsightly scourge of baldness, the inconvenience of the overweight, the homely, the nervous, the politically incorrect, the homosexual, the low talker, the close talker, anyone who doesn't look like Florence Henderson.

    Let's be very clear about what this is — literal eugenics, not on paper, not in theory, but eugenics in practice. To "eradicate" the undesirable and inconvenient, Iceland is using science as a weapon of genocide against a specific group of human beings.

    Believe it or not, the news gets impossibly worse, because this is happening right here in America:

    Other countries aren't lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it's 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity — and Down syndrome is included in this category.

    Now read this paragraph closely, embrace the monstrous subtext:

    When Thordis Ingadottir was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40, she took the screening test. The results showed her chances of having a child with Down syndrome were very slim, odds of 1 in 1,600. However, the screening test is only 85 percent accurate. That year, 2009, three babies were born with Down syndrome in Iceland, including Ingadottir's daughter Agusta, who is now 7.

    Oops. Sometimes one gets through!

    Moreover, based on odds — ODDS! — babies are being exterminated, and how many of those "terminated" babies would not have been born with Down syndrome? Why doesn't CBS News even raise that possibility?

    And now the kicker:

    [Counselor Helga Sol] Olafsdottir responded [to an anti-abortion activist], "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."

    If this is such a moral good, isn't it odd, then, that 99.99% of those who are burdened with a "huge complication" in their life, or who suffer (disease, depression, loneliness, chronic pain) choose not to exercise this wondrous good of not existing through suicide?

    Final point: This is happening to Down syndrome babies for only one reason. Unlike the rest of the handicapped community, those with Down syndrome do not have a voice, do not organize, do not express the kind of outrage that makes for good teeeveeee. This population is completely innocent, guileless, helpless and at our mercy — a fact that makes their "disappearing" all the more demonic.

    Yes, demonic.