Iceland

Outlawing Down syndrome abortions: Isn't religion always part of this news story?

Outlawing Down syndrome abortions: Isn't religion always part of this news story?

What are the countries with the highest amount of kids with Down syndrome? If you look here, they are the United States, followed by Brazil and Mexico, all of which have highly religious populations.

So you'd think that any article dealing with the syndrome and abortion in highly churched Utah might have something to do with religion.

You might think that. But the topic is not mentioned in this otherwise informative piece by the Washington Post. Once again, it might have helped to consult the religion-desk staff during the reporting process.

At stake is a piece of legislation outlawing abortion -- when Down syndrome is the overriding reason for terminating the pregnancy. 

Karianne Lisonbee stepped up to the lectern to talk about what she called “a terrible form of discrimination.”
The Republican state representative in Utah had just introduced a bill that would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if a woman is seeking one “solely” because the fetus has Down syndrome. “In recent years, there has been a shocking increase in abortions performed for no other reason than because a prenatal test identified the potential for a trait a parent didn’t like,” she said at the news conference last month.

At this point, most articles would follow up her assertion with some factchecking.

As it turns out, the abortion rate with parents who learn their kid has Down syndrome goes as high as 90 percent internationally and 67 percent in the United States. Instead, this piece quoted the legislator, then added:

The highly controversial legislation -- and similar bills passed in North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana -- has put Down syndrome front and center in the abortion debate when the condition is becoming more widely understood and accepted in the United States. In many neighborhoods today, children with Down syndrome participate in mainstream classrooms and on sports teams. Companies including Safeway, Walgreens and Home Depot have created programs to train and employ adults with the condition (along with adults with other disabilities). This year, Gerber, the maker of baby food, lit up social media with expressions of delight when it announced that it had chosen Lucas Warren -- who has Down syndrome -- as its newest “spokesbaby.”

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As more journalists report on Iceland's circumcision saga, the country gets a rabbi

As more journalists report on Iceland's circumcision saga, the country gets a rabbi

Iceland, pop. 348,580, is smaller than many U.S. counties but it often makes news totally out of proportion to its size. I recently reported on the country’s attempt to become the first nation in the world to ban circumcision.

The post was inundated with a wave of comments from anti-circumcision activists who ignored the journalism question raised in my post. Tmatt says he spiked at least two dozen of these messages. So, before you read any further, please restrict any comments to the quality of news coverage on this issue, not your own views on the legal and religious issue itself.

But do read my article and the lengthy response by Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson on what the true issues are in Iceland about circumcision.

Then I learned a few days later that Chabad Lubavitch, possibly the most outreach oriented Orthodox Jewish group out there, plans to send a rabbi and his family (pictured above) to Reykjavik sometime next fall. Most of the coverage came from Jewish media, such as this piece by the Jewish Telegraph Agency: 

The Chabad movement is sending a rabbi and his wife to Iceland, an island nation with 250 Jews where ritual slaughter of animals is illegal and circumcision is likely to be outlawed as well.
Rabbi Avi Feldman, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, and his Sweden-born wife Mushky, are slated to settle with their two daughters in Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital city, later this year, the couple told JTA last week.
The country is not known to have had a resident rabbi servicing an active Jewish community there since 1918, the year it gained independence from what was then the Kingdom of Denmark.

The piece then updated readers on the circumcision debate in Iceland, then quoted Feldman’s response.

“We hope to bring awareness of the relevance and importance of brit milah,” the rabbi told JTA, using the Hebrew-language word for Jewish ritual circumcision, which is typically performed on boys when they are eight days old. “We hope to bring this awareness to local Icelandic people and especially to lawmakers in their decision on rules, which we hope will have a religious exemption clause.”

Chabad.org has by far the most details on the new rabbi and Iceland’s sparse Jewish history

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When reporting on Iceland's attempt to ban circumcision, why not talk to Jews, Muslims?

When reporting on Iceland's attempt to ban circumcision, why not talk to Jews, Muslims?

It was bound to happen: Laws banning circumcision for infant boys. No one knew quite where it might start.

Turns out the place is none other than Iceland, lauded by some as being a “feminist paradise” with a former prime minister who was a lesbian, generous childcare benefits and a strong women’s movement. The circumcision ban is ostensibly to protect children. What the country’s tiny Muslim and Jewish minorities may think of that is not mentioned.

Here’s the bare bones recital from the Independent:

MPs from five different political parties in Iceland have proposed a ban on the circumcision of boys. 
The bill, which has been submitted to the country’s parliament, suggests a six-year prison term for anyone found guilty of “removing sexual organs in whole or in part”. 
Circumcising girls has been illegal in Iceland since 2005, but there are currently no laws to regulate the practice against boys. 
Describing circumcision as a “violation” of young boys’ rights, the bill states the only time it should be considered is for “health reasons”. 
Addressing religious traditions, it insists the “rights of the child” always exceed the “right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion”. 

As to who thought up this bill and why, we hear nothing. Think about that for a moment. That's a rather important hole in the story. Right?

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Patricia Heaton doesn't work for GetReligion; but her Down syndrome tweet is a must-see

Patricia Heaton doesn't work for GetReligion; but her Down syndrome tweet is a must-see

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:

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