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Low Down Syndrome Rates in Iceland

With increased use of prenatal genetic screening, Iceland has nearly eliminated Down syndrome from its population, CBS News reports. It notes that there are still one or two infants with Down syndrome born each year in Iceland, which has a population of 330,000.

Screening is offered to each expectant mother in Iceland, and though it is optional, some 80 percent to 85 percent of women opt for it, it adds. Nearly all who receive a positive test for Down syndrome choose to terminate, according to CBS News. Icelandic law allows abortion after 16 weeks for fetal deformities, which includes Down syndrome, it adds.

DeCode Genetics founder Kari Stefansson tells CBS News that that rate "reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling."

"And I don't think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable," he adds. "You're having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way."

Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, tells CBS News that they strive for neutral counseling, though she notes that just offering the test may influence people's decisions.