By Max Bibeau | ICELAND
The country of Iceland is on track to completely eliminate Down syndrome in their country through an extremely controversial program: eugenics.
Iceland offers a prenatal screening test for all pregnant women, which can accurately predict the likelihood of a child being born with a chromosomal abnormality, which most commonly manifests itself in the form of Down syndrome.
About 85% of women opt to receive the prenatal screening, and almost 100% of women who receive positive results for Down syndrome terminate their pregnancy.
Of Iceland’s overall population of 330,000, only an average of one or two babies are born with Down syndrome every year. This comes in stark contrast to the United States, where with a population of 323,000,000 people, over 6000 babies with Down syndrome are born annually.
Women in the United States also have the option to terminate their pregnancy if their baby is expected to have Down syndrome, however, only 67% choose to do so.
Most babies born with Down syndrome in Iceland are only born due to inaccuracies in the screening tests. Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, has stated that most are born because they were “low risk in our screening test, so we didn’t find them in our screening.”
While the program is completely optional, Hjartardottir admits that while “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.”
People with Down syndrome experience facial and mental inhibitions, but are able to lead successful and fulfilling lives. Advances in modern medicine have allowed over 80% of individuals with Down syndrome to live 60 years or more.