Iceland’s ‘eradication’ of Down syndrome is affront to gift of life

Do you ever feel the world is going amok? That’s how I felt when I read the CBS News report about “the near ‘eradication’ of Down syndrome in Iceland” because expectant mothers who are told their babies would likely have Down syndrome are deciding to have abortions.

According to this same report, since the introduction of prenatal screening tests in the early 2000s, nearly 100 percent of pregnant women in Iceland who received a positive test for Down syndrome opted for an abortion, sometimes after receiving inaccurate test results. Only one or two children born on average each year are born with this genetic difference.

By Chris Codden

Other countries are not too far behind in the termination rate of unborn babies with the condition. In 2015, the rate in France was 77 percent; the United Kingdom reported 90 percent. As reported by the Copenhagen Post in 2011, due to the country’s prenatal testing program, Denmark “could be a country without a single citizen with Down syndrome in the not-too-distant future.”

CBS reports that from 1995 to 2011, the U.S. had an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent, compared to the CDC report in 2013 noting that nearly 17 percent of all pregnancies are aborted, with or without genetic testing.

Gift from God

This is disturbing to say the least.  This “eradication” is no more than extermination and infanticide. In a culture that strives to accentuate its multiculturalism and the fluidity of the sexes, the loss of a particular group in our society should be intuitively tragic, especially as we remember the not-so-distant history of Hitler trying to eradicate the Jews.

Every human life has worth and is an irreplaceable, unique creation of our Almighty God. Ask any parent who sees the joy in the eyes of their precious child that may struggle with various challenges, including Down syndrome. The unconditional love that is freely given from these beautiful children surpasses what most of us “normal” people can muster.

It is our duty to stand up against the tide of those who shape our way of thinking, especially policymakers, professional medical organizations, media magnets, etc., to proclaim that enough is enough. We should support those who receive a poor prenatal diagnosis of a pre-born child, when parents may experience a period filled with uncertainty and doubt. Be Not Afraid is an organization that aligns itself with the teaching of the Catholic Church and offers support, webinars and hope ( ).

It is also our charge to assist parents with children who have extra challenges. It can take a toll on caregivers, who have little opportunity for respite and to replenish their energy to handle their sometimes 24/7 role. Offering a helping hand to a neighbor, fellow parishioner, friend or family member can go a long way.  The National Down Syndrome Society has information and a list of 375 affiliates around the country that give ideas on how to support these loving parents.

Come and pray

We also need to stand up for life any chance we can. On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the next 40 Days for Life campaign begins outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic in St. Cloud. Individuals, couples, families and parish groups are needed to come and take an hour to pray for the end of abortion and for the women and men who find themselves in crisis.

Our visible sign to the world that we stand for life has an impact on those facing unplanned pregnancies, the clinic workers, and those who just drive by and see our love for life. To sign up for the vigil, email Judy Haag at:  The 40 Days opening rally is Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to noon at Planned Parenthood.

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying,” St. John Paul II said. May we work so we are judged as a people of life.

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at

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The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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