Whether a Western nation is cleansing itself of a race, an ethnicity, or a disability, the reasoning justifying it is the same: human beings have instrumental, not intrinsic, value. That is, we're not valuable merely because we're human beings; rather, each individual earns his or her value by meeting certain requirements set by society—age, sex, ability, intelligence, race, etc.
In this understanding, only a subset of the human race is valuable, as certain other members of the species are defined out of the group. Then the title of "human being" or "person" is simply denied to those other members, making it psychologically easier for the valuable subset to end the lives of those who didn't make the cut, for the sake of either individual preference or the "good of society."
So there are two closely-related ideas that must be in place for atrocities of this kind to happen: 1) Human value depends on the presence of certain characteristics or abilities, and 2) The real value of a human being is not objective, but is set by the preferences of other human beings (e.g., pregnant mothers are granted the right to declare whether or not the lives of their unborn children are worthy of the protection of the law).
And these same ideas that support abortion are behind this current trend in Denmark:
Since 2004, the government has offered all pregnant women free prenatal screenings to determine if the foetus is afflicted with Down’s syndrome….
[W]hen the free and widespread screenings were introduced, 61 babies with Down’s syndrome were born in Denmark. The following year, the number was reduced by more than half. In each successive year, the number continued to drop by an average annual rate of around 13 percent. The reason for the steady decline is that most of the foetuses that test positive for the defect are aborted.
A medical review from 2002 of elective abortions in the UK and the US found that around 92 percent of all foetuses diagnosed with Down’s syndrome were aborted. In Denmark, medical experts estimate the rate of abortions to be even higher. If the current trend continues, it is predicted that the last Down’s syndrome baby in Denmark could be born in 2030.
The article quotes a professor who expresses some hesitation about the trend:
Niels Uldbjerg, professor of gynaecology and obstetrics at the University of Aarhus, agrees that an ethical problem exists. From the medical perspective, he sees successful screenings and the reduction of babies born with birth defects as a “tremendously great accomplishment”. “But if you ask me as a person, then I would say that I like that there are people among us who are different,” Uldbjerg added.
It's unclear whether the term "ethical problem" is Uldbjerg's or the author's. Uldbjerg's only concern seems to be one of subjective preference—he personally likes having different sorts of people. But preference isn't an ethical issue. It's certainly not enough to stand in the way of a "tremendously great accomplishment."
Even in a quote from the chairman of the Danish Association of Midwives who does have ethical concerns, it's clear she has already accepted the two ideas I described above. She's merely questioning where the line ought to be drawn, not the line itself:
“If the couple learns in this way that there is a good chance that the child will develop a chronic disease, is that then a good reason to abort? I don’t have the definitive answer,” Bondo continued. “But I would like to get as many people as possible talking about where society should draw the line. I don’t want a society where we reject people over trivialities.”
I think what's happening is that these people intuitively know there's something wrong with this, but they're confused as to why, and they can't reason their way to an answer because they're starting with the wrong presuppositions.
At Stand to Reason, we've been saying there's "only one question" that has to be answered when evaluating abortion: "What is it?" But that's not really the case anymore. There's actually another, deeper question: "What is a human being?" If we're merely the evolutionary result of blind, purposeless, unknowing, and uncaring natural processes, with only instrumental value conferred on us by the subjective preferences of the majority of other human beings, then asking if a creature is of the human species won't answer the question of whether or not we can kill it.
The reasoning is now in place in the West to begin to more aggressively separate the valuable humans from the non-valuable ones. If you're okay with this development, you should keep in mind that the line has a funny way of not staying in a place you're comfortable with.
[Update: Thanks to an alert reader who pointed me to an official translation of the original article. Because of that, I've made some changes to this post's title and to the quotes. Denmark doesn't have an official policy to promote the end of Down syndrome births. The policy begun by Denmark in 2004 was to give all pregnant women free genetic testing for Down syndrome. This is the policy contributing to the disappearance of Down syndrome children. The articles I linked to originally here and here were not accurate, so my apologies for that.]