A Thing We Ended

Reposted with permission (emphases added) from the blog of Pastor Omar Garcia, Kingsland Baptist Church, Katy, Texas.

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 Charlottesville, 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.

Check out Go Beyond Blog to read more from Pastor Garcia!