In August, CBS News released a tweet that created quite the debate. It read:
“Iceland is on pace to virtually eliminate Down syndrome through abortion.”
To which actress Patricia Heaton replied:
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) August 15, 2017
And according to author, J. Pepper Bryars, it was Heaton who put it best.
As CBS News reported, prenatal testing isn’t mandatory for expecting mothers in Iceland, but it does allow the parents to know if their child will be born with any abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.
— Caroline White (@carolineplayle) August 13, 2017
Almost 85 percent of the women in Iceland who received the prenatal test also made the decision to abort their child if they were diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The report hits close to home for Bryars.
According to AL.com, in August 2006, Bryars and his wife were expecting their second child. He remembers the day his wife called him sobbing uncontrollably after receiving the results of her prenatal test:
I was sitting at my desk in the Pentagon when the phone rang. “What happened?” I asked, standing so abruptly that I sent my office chair flying backward and crashing into the wall. The telephone receiver shook in my hands as I imagined the worst. “Something’s wrong with the baby,” she managed to say between tears. “The doctor’s office called. Something’s wrong with the baby.”
The results showed their unborn child showed signs of Trisomy 18. The news came just months after Bryars and his wife suffered a miscarriage.
— AL.com (@aldotcom) September 11, 2017
According to the Trisomy 18 Foundation, Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards’ Syndrome, is a condition that causes severe developmental delays due to an extra chromosome 18. There is no treatment, and it’s usually fatal before birth or within the first year of life.
Bryars called their doctor to see what their next steps should be. He was told there was an ultrasound that could further diagnose the condition, which he made an appointment for straight away:
“I then began reading about Trisomy 18 in hopes of learning about recent breakthroughs or amazing success stories. Sadly, I found very little hope.”
Bryars admitted on AL.com he found strength in the words his priest told him after they suffered the miscarriage months prior:
“We live in a fallen world, full of imperfection.”
Two weeks later, Bryars and his wife received the ultrasound that would tell them if their unborn child had Trisomy 18. When looking up at the screen, Bryars had no clue what the doctors were looking for, but he saw what seemed to be the “perfect” baby.
And that’s when he decided to always think of his son as “perfect” no matter what.
In January 2007, Bryars and his wife welcomed their second child into the world. Ten years later, their son can play the piano, dabbles in watercolor painting, reads novels, hunts, fishes, plays sports, has consistently made the honor roll at school, and has the goal of becoming an Eagle Scout before graduating high school.J. Pepper Bryars
Bryars’ son was not born with Trisomy 18. As he revealed, the ultrasound sound showed the prenatal test was “a false positive,” adding that “sometimes they get it wrong”:
J. Pepper Bryars
I know it sounds like I’m bragging, and I am, but there’s a point. Sometimes they get it wrong. That’s why I’m sharing this story.
We were blessed with strong convictions and never considered abortion, but many do. Some wait until having that specialized ultrasound, but some don’t.
Killing unborn children because they’re disabled is monstrous, but killing a perfectly healthy child because it’s mistakenly thought to be disabled adds a special bit of horror to this tragedy.
He added his son is now, and has always been, “as near to perfection as he dared dream.”