Other studies have found that children with Down syndrome have strong adaptive skills. Picture: Af.mil

Washington - In August last year CBS News shocked the world with its report claiming that Iceland was on the verge of "eradicating" Down syndrome. 

Upon a closer look, it is clear that Iceland is not eliminating Down syndrome through positive preventive methods or therapeutic treatments. Rather, it is eliminating an entire population of people via abortion.

Originally discovered by French paediatrician Jerome Lejeune in 1959, Down syndrome affects an estimated 6 million people worldwide. 

So why are babies with Down syndrome so disproportionately targeted for abortion? For many, it's about quality of life: Parents believe, sadly, that a family member with a disability or Down syndrome translates into an unfulfilled or bad life. 

Societal beliefs reflect this view: Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins once said it would be "immoral" to give birth to a child with Down syndrome if the parents had a choice, as though life with the disorder would be a terrible thing to inflict on a person.

In 2011, Brian Skotko, a Harvard-trained physician and researcher, published a groundbreaking survey, "Self-Perceptions from People With Down Syndrome." His work revealed that people with Down syndrome have a very high level of satisfaction in their lives and are generally very happy people

Similarly, family members of people with Down syndrome also rank high in levels of personal fulfillment. So not only are people with Down syndrome happy, but they also bring a great deal of happiness to their friends and family members. 

Indeed, the survey found that 88 percent of siblings of children with Down syndrome feel that they are better people for having had their brothers and sisters; and other studies have found that children with Down syndrome have strong adaptive skills and that their parents tend to divorce less than the parents of children without Down syndrome.

Bridget Jones star Sally Phillips has a son with Down syndrome and shared her thoughts on 60 Minutes, saying that we need to change the way we speak about Down syndrome.

"If you stop thinking of Down syndrome as a disease, then the way you treat mothers is entirely different," Jones said. "You perhaps wouldn't say, 'I'm sorry.' Breaking the news with the phrase 'I'm sorry.' There's nothing to be sorry about. You're lucky, actually."

What parents really need during this sensitive time is support, encouragement and real, scientifically valid information. 

The Washington Post