Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 18, 2017

A Thing We Ended

While every news organization in the country devoted almost every minute of air time this week to endless debate about what the president should or should not have said or tweeted about the terribly sad events of Charlottsville, a profoundly disturbing news story caught my attention — “Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing.”

How could I ignore a story like that? Down syndrome disappearing? Was this a story about some medical breakthrough that somehow had been overshadowed by the media’s parsing of Trump’s tweets? Had some scientist finally unlocked the mystery of what causes the chromosomal condition that produces Down syndrome?

Down syndrome occurs in people of all races. In the United States, approximately one in every seven hundred babies is born with Down syndrome. That’s somewhere around six thousand babies born with Down syndrome each year. The great news is that studies have shown that those born with Down syndrome are actually very happy with their lives.

But, back to the country where Down syndrome is disappearing — of all places, Iceland. Within the first couple of paragraphs of the first news story I read, the ugly truth became apparent about why Down syndrome is disappearing on this island in the North Atlantic. And it was not because someone had made some magnificent medical breakthrough worthy of Nobel Prize consideration.

Iceland, like several other countries, conducts prenatal screening for Down syndrome. Doctors in Iceland are required to notify women if their prenatal screening indicates they are carrying a child who might be born with Down syndrome. As a result, nearly 100 percent of women who receive a positive result terminate their pregnancy, even though test results are not always accurate. There you have it

Iceland is not eradicating Down syndrome — it is eradicating people.

Helga Sol Olafsdottir, a woman who counsels women whose prenatal screening indicates a chromosomal abnormality, does not hesitate to encourage those women to have an abortion. In her own words, “We don’t look at abortion as murder. We look at it as a thing we ended.”

A thing we ended?

When we look at life in the womb as a “thing” rather than a person created in the image of God then there is nothing to stand in the way of a decision to terminate that “thing.”

It’s interesting that a woman who is carrying a child she wants never refers to it as a thing. Can you imagine — “I am so excited about the thing growing in my belly. I can hardly wait to welcome this thing into our home.”

It is worth considering where all this can lead. Eventually decisions about the value of life in the womb lead to discussions about the value of life outside the womb. The late Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer warned, “If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity.” That’s a frightening thought.

The reality is that prenatal screening can detect numerous physical defects. So, what’s the next headline? “Inside the country where spina bifida is disappearing?” Or, perhaps, “Inside the country where cleft lip and palate is disappearing.” What about cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy?

I am saddened about what is happening in Iceland and in many other countries, including the United States, with similar practices. People with Down syndrome are every bit as precious in the eyes of God as any other person on the planet. No human being has the right to set up a caste system based on whether you are born with Down syndrome or a particular physical defect.

Again, in the words of the late Francis Schaeffer, “Cultures can be judged in many ways, but eventually every nation in every age must be judged by this test: How did it treat people?” Indeed, how did it treat those both in and out of the womb? Folks in Iceland should more carefully consider the fact that we are not things but rather human beings created in the image of God — and that all lives matter, including life in the womb.


  1. I read a similar disturbing article on the BBC news a while ago, about Iceland eradicating Down Syndrome… it was shocking but what was even more shocking was the ‘pride’ they have in this ‘achievement’. My heart grieves for the choices our world is making.

  2. Sad,”we will all be judged by how we treated those from whom we have nothing to gain”.

  3. The impact that abortion has had on our country is immense. It has ALREADY devalued life at every age. Our culture has morphed into what any culture becomes when it rejects God : depraved and self centered (reflecting its ‘ruler’, Satan) That is why we see people with ‘no conscience’ killing others in order to steal their things; child abuse and murder of children because they are ‘inconvenient’ or have been used to satisfy sexual perversion, then, discarded; abortion celebrated and defended as a virtuous ‘choice’; elderly, not just dishonored, but discarded’; all manner of perversions that God has given people over to (Romans 1). May God’s people fall on our faces before the Lord pleading for mercy and for salvation, or that Jesus returns quickly. Those are the only ways change will come.

  4. My mother’s only sister had Down Symdrome. My grandfather died in 1954 so my aunt was my grandmother’s companion for the next 30+ years. They had a deep love for one another and took care of one another. My grandmother only lived a couple of years after my Aunt Doris died.

  5. Quoting actress Patricia Heaton: “Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down Syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.” This whole thing is, of course, blood-chilling. We are all horrified by the Nazi-esque practice in Iceland. Yet I can’t help wondering – how is this any worse than America’s practice of killing a perfectly healthy preborn baby just for the crime of being “inconvenient”?

    Years ago, as a brand-new nurse, I entered an elevator on my first day at work at our local hospital. I encountered a smiling young man who was pushing a linen cart. His facial features marked him as a person with Down Syndrome, but he was working, performing a vital service at the hospital. I greeted him, and he immediately said to me (a total stranger), “Tomorrow is my birthday, I’m going to be 19. You can come to my party if you’d like, just come and celebrate with me.” Now how sweet is that?

    I have many “Eric” stories I could tell, for he worked there for many years, as I did, and I remember when he had gray hair and wrinkles, but he never lost his sunny smile, and he always delivered our linens on time.

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