Only 18 children with Down syndrome were born in Denmark in 2019, the lowest number on record in the Scandinavian country, according to a new report from the Danish Central Cytogenetic Registry (DCCR).
The DCCR, whose statistics date back to 1970, is a national registry of people who have undergone prenatal or postnatal chromosomal tests, molecular genetic tests, or biochemical tests.
The 18 babies born with Down syndrome in Denmark last year represent 0.029% of total births. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 700 (0.14%) children in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, or about 6,000 babies annually.
In Denmark, “the low number is probably an expression of a random fluctuation in numbers that are already quite small. But it should be followed by an important debate on society’s approach to children with disabilities,” said Olav Bjørn Petersen, chief physician and professor of fetal medicine at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen
Denmark was the first country in the world to implement national free prenatal Down syndrome screening for all pregnant women.
With the introduction of free prenatal screening in 2004, the number of children born with Down syndrome decreased significantly, but subsequently stabilized at 23 to 35 live births per year.
In 2018, 22 babies were born with Down syndrome, but in 2019 number plummeted even further.
According to the Danish National Board of Health, “95% of pregnant women whose fetus is found to have a chromosomal abnormality opt for an abortion.”
In Iceland, “nearly 100 percent” of pregnancies that tested positive for Down syndrome were aborted, according to a 2017 CBS News report.
Denmark allows abortion on demand within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that period, abortion is only allowed if a medical council considers there to be a physical and mental risk to the health of the mother or risk of birth defects in the unborn child. Minors under 18 need parental consent to get an abortion.