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Abortion and the Lower Crime Rate

  Shocking Theory

  Modern Eugenics?

A People of Life



One of the last words of the past millennium about abortion was a chilling one. It was a September 1999 study by two respected researchers which linked a dramatically lowered crime rate to the legalization of abortion on January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade.

The 63-page study, Legalized Abortion and Crime, was published by John J. Donohue III of Stanford Law School and Steven D. Levitt, a University of Chicago economist.

Shocking Theory

Donohue and Levitt note at the outset of their report that U.S. crime fell more quickly in the 1990’s than at any time since the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933. Any number of theories have been put forth, they note, including more prisons, more police, the war on drugs, economic prosperity and a security-minded public.

But those factors precede the 1990’s, the authors say, and thus cannot fully explain such a dramatic decline in crime. Why did violent crime in the United States drop so quickly and so widely during the past decade?

They suggest that our society is seeing the first fruits of a quarter century of widespread, legalized abortion: a smaller “thug pool,” if you will. Yes, they say, many of those aborted babies would have grown up in broken, low-income homes and thus, had they lived, been at higher risk of becoming violent criminals.

Say the authors, “First, the timing of the crime drop corresponds to the period in which the first cohorts affected by abortion are reaching the peak ages of criminal activity. Second, [the] states that legalized abortion before the rest of the nation were the first to experience decreasing crime. Third, states with high abortion rates have seen a greater fall in crime since 1985....

“If the estimates are correct, legalized abortion can explain about half of the recent fall in crime. All else equal, we predict that the crime rate will continue to fall slowly for an additional 15-20 years as the full effects of legalized abortion are gradually felt.”

Modern Eugenics?

The findings of Legalized Abortion and Crime have yet to be fully evaluated as social science. So there could be some flaw in the authors’ method that casts doubt on their theory. In that case, their study could turn out to be hot air. On the other hand, their correlation might prove correct. Either way, it raises a deep question for us to ponder during the first month of a new era. What if we are making society safer by getting rid of people?

Students of history will remember the eugenics movement from the turn of the past century. Following the lead of Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, eugenics supporters sought to devise methods to improve the qualities of the human race. Humans would flourish, they said, if we discourage reproduction among those seen as unfit and encourage reproduction among those who are healthy, intelligent and morally upright.

The result was a range of government policies in Western nations, including enforced sterilization of mentally ill people in the United States and elsewhere. But the Nazis in Germany pushed eugenics to the nightmarish extreme of murdering millions who were seen as polluting the genetic pool or exerting a negative influence on society. The Jewish people experienced unspeakable horror, as did millions of others, including Catholics, gypsies, people with disabilities and others seen as undesirable.

Is this our vision for the human race? Abortion proponents wouldn’t cast abortion rights in these terms, but the crime study seems to say otherwise. After all, blacks and other minorities account for about 40 percent of abortions, according to Newsweek.

Many would say that eugenics has lurked, rarely spoken, in the background of the abortion-rights movement all along. Even if this “social cleansing” were an unintended consequence of legal abortion, how could one deny that it might serve as a hidden motivator in abortion policies from this time forward? Abortion has reared yet another ugly head.

A People of Life

Pope John Paul II has been one of the most eloquent opponents of abortion in our era. One would do well to start the new millennium by reading again his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life. He exposes how abortion and euthanasia “rights” undermine the foundations of every human right in society.

He pleads, “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted?” When this happens, he says, the disintegration of human coexistence, society itself, has begun. And again, “But today, in people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis in the moral sense....We need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name” (#20, 58).

This month pro-life advocates will march again in our nation’s capital. They’ve marched every year since 1973 to decry the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that has allowed abortion to become so widespread. They deserve our prayers and support as they vividly tell our society that abortion, like the eugenics movement a century ago, is a plague that must be stopped.—J.B.F.



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