Three guesses, and the first two don’t count. CBS News takes a deep look into Iceland’s dramatic reduction in Down Syndrome births, thanks to the use of near-universal genetic screening for pregnant women and the aggressive use of abortion to terminate such pregnancies. To CBS’ credit, the report itself is more balanced than its tweet last night suggested:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2017
That prompted horrified reactions on social media, including this from actress Patricia Heaton:
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) August 15, 2017
The report itself notes this contradiction in terms, however. Even scientists wonder whether science has eclipsed morality, and not in a good way:
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.”
The report also focuses on Thordis Ingadottir and her seven-year-old daughter, Agusta. The screening missed the Down diagnosis, but now Ingadottir has become a voice of opposition to abortion aimed at children with diagnoses like Down Syndrome:
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?”
CBS does present the other side of the argument as well:
Olafsdottir responded, “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.”
This is the slippery slope that abortion creates. Once it becomes an option, it then becomes an obligation to the utilitarian view of life. No one has shown that Down Syndrome children “suffer” in the sense of pain or indignity. What Olafsdottir wants is a life without complications, without responsibilities, and as much of a guarantee of material perfection as can be marshaled.
Furthermore, this particular effort is never-ending. Down Syndrome can’t be “eliminated” in the same way smallpox and other diseases are, because it is a genetic complication of procreation between two healthy adults. Killing Down Syndrome babies does not reduce the risk of Down Syndrome in the future.
Contra Olafsdottir, life is a black-and-white issue. An egg and a spermatozoa are potential life; a zygote, embryo, and fetus are the forms of that potential realized. The science is black and white, while the morality of abortion is what’s “grey.” The lack of Down Syndrome children looks like a victory to her, when in fact it’s an indictment of the utilitarianism, moral relativism, and rot that has infected the West, and abortion, euthanasia, and obligatory assisted suicide are its pustules.
Addendum: Be sure to read my colleague Lauretta Brown’s take on this story as well.