If you know anything about politics in Hollywood, then you probably know that there are few "players" in that scene who are out-and-proud moral, cultural and religious conservatives.
However, if you are left-of-center on most matters political, yet you also oppose abortion or even simply abortion on demand, then you may be aware that Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton (click here for her many credits) has been bold enough to serve as the honorary chair of the organization Feminists for Life.
She also has a fairly large following on Twitter, although nothing by Kardashian standings.
So, this progressive pro-lifer is taking on CBS. Why?
Because of a report which, in its online form, has this provocative headline:
"What kind of society do you want to live in?": Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing
This long feature opens like this:
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.
While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.
Now, in the world of Twitter push promotion materials, that translates into this:
Once again, we are dealing with a topic that is almost impossible to discuss -- in Europe, as well as North America -- without dealing with questions of religious doctrine as well as medical ethics. When you pull that into journalism territory, it's important to choose your words carefully.
Now, Heaton is a Roman Catholic and very open about that (click here for her famous Catholic throwdown with Stephen Colbert). The wording of that CBS tweet sounded all kinds of alarms for her, as it would an active member in any Christian communion with ancient doctrines on life issues (think Eastern Orthodox, etc.).
Thus, Heaton responded with the following tweet, which proceeded to blow up -- as you would imagine -- in the tense world of social media:
In other words, is Iceland making progress in addressing the genetic puzzle behind Down syndrome (which would probably open another ethical can or snakes), or have scientists there simple put in place government policies that encourage the abortion of unborn children with Down syndrome?
The CBS story itself is somewhat nuanced and editors there are to be commended for their blunt use of the word "terminations," even when attached to the softer word "pregnancies."
The prenatal tests are optional, but government policies now mandate that women be briefed on these tests. Thus:
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. ...
Other countries aren't lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it's 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity -- and Down syndrome is included in this category.
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.
I am interested in the reactions of GetReligion readers, especially journalists, to the actual CBS report, as opposed to the wording of the tweet. I'll try to attach the URL for this post to a Heaton tweet, as well.
The story has a strong ending, whether you cheer for it, shrug at it, worry about it or mourn it. The CBS correspondent, in this report, is Elaine Quijano.
Over at Landspitali University Hospital, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. They speak to her when deciding whether to continue or end their pregnancies. Olafsdottir tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: "This is your life -- you have the right to choose how your life will look like."
She showed Quijano a prayer card inscribed with the date and tiny footprints of a fetus that was terminated.
Quijano noted, "In America, I think some people would be confused about people calling this 'our child,' saying a prayer or saying goodbye or having a priest come in -- because to them abortion is murder."
Olafsdottir responded, "We don't look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication ... preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder -- that's so black and white. Life isn't black and white. Life is grey."