Dying in Our Sleep is a Luxury

Readers, I told you that I did not want to make this Nazi Week at Trial of the Century, and so I will not—sort of. It is not angry white boys, rejects and failed men, that I want to talk about, but rather actual Nazis, or at least actual Nazism, or at least its faint echo about fifteen hundred miles northwest from where it was originally birthed. Consider Iceland:

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.

Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy…

With a population of around 330,000, Iceland has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year, sometimes after their parents received inaccurate test results. (In the U.S., according to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born each year.)

“Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” said Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, where around 70 percent of Icelandic children are born. “Some of them were low risk in our screening test, so we didn’t find them in our screening.”

Ah, yeah, major bummer—surely many parents can sympathize: sometimes those pesky Down babies just slip through the cracks of the test. Then you’re stuck with em.

To be fair, there are some radical dissimilarities between the state-mandated Aktion T4 policy in Nazi Germany and the voluntary Down baby purge in present-day Iceland, namely: the one is state-mandated and the other is voluntary. But that in itself is a quaint kind of horror show: legalized abortion is accomplishing through voluntary means what Nazi Germany could not fully accomplish through a mechanized machine of government euthanasia. “The right to choose” is, evidently, a fairly one-way street, at least where trisomy 21 is concerned.

I suppose such a thorough scrubbing of Down babies from the Icelandic population is justified somewhere along these lines: people with Down syndrome have much more difficult lives than people without it, so it is an act of mercy to kill them in order to put them out of their future misery. In and of itself this is a rather fascinating if ghastly philosophy: presumably one could justify aborting anyone who might possibly have a slightly more difficult life than you think is acceptable.

But implicit beneath the countless Down abortions is this: people believe Down lives are worth less than non-Down lives. It is hard to conclude otherwise when you see so many parents rushing to abort at the first sign of the syndrome. “I wanted an easier baby than this” is surely at least part of the equation, if not most of it: people with Down syndrome, after all, are more than capable of leading productive and happy lives, so one is forced to conclude that the high Down abortion rate is as much a matter of convenience as it is a matter of “mercy.”

No, Icelanders are not Nazis—not by a long shot. But that is, in its own way, horrifying: it does not take Nazism to reduce the human person to a disposable, killable footnote. Sometimes all it takes is…choice.

One comment

  1. Adriana Mandon

    Yes, they are straightforward killing Dawn babies, that doesn’t have nothing to do with eliminating the condition so still is killing by the sake of a “x factor” in this case DS as you well say it, in the States I know women that had an abortion for bifida spine, MLS, IB, etc. Also I know a couple who were advice an abortion because their babies were DS and they refused and their babies were normal, so science or technology also make mistakes. If we start to do this because we are able to see the babies Inside the wombs, and decide if they qualify “to live”, we are creating a dehumanize society, compassion, care, empathy, love, all what made us humans, are lost. We are creating a society of beautiful, intelligent people, perfect genetic and totally soulless. That is an old concept, nothing new, eugenics? The children of Brazil? Mengele?