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Did Roe v. Wade Reduce Crime?

John Lott has this very interesting article about the thesis that Roe v. Wade reduced crime. The thesis has been most prominently advanced by economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt. They argue that Roe lead to declining crime rates by reducing the number of "unwanted" children. These unwanted children would have entered their crime-prone years shortly after 1990 — thereby explaining why crime rates began declining in the early 1990s.

Lott has some interesting responses. I found particularly powerful Lott's rejoinder that, when crime-rate declines are analyzed by age group, the Roe theory falters:

The "abortion decreases crime" theory runs into even more problems when the population is analyzed by age group. Suppose that liberalizing abortion in the early 1970s can indeed explain up to 80 percent of the drop in murder during the 1990s, as Donohue and Levitt claim. Deregulating abortion would then reduce criminality first among age groups born after the abortion laws changed, when the "unwanted," crime-prone elements began to be weeded out. Yet when we look at the declining murder rate during the 1990s, we find that this is not the case at all. Instead, murder rates began falling first among an older generation — those over 26 — born before Roe. It was only later that criminality among those born after Roe began to decline.

Lott goes on to contend that Roe actually increased crime, by increasing out-of-wedlock births. Social science has established a very clear link between single-parent families and crime. Lott concludes that any reduction in crime because of fewer crime-prone "unwanted" children was far outweighed by the increase in single-parent families. His conclusion seem reasonable to me.

Steve in CA (mail):
Why would Roe have increased the number of out-of-wedlock births? Wouldn't it have the opposite effect?
7.7.2008 4:22pm
Contentious:
I agree with Steve in CA. Granted, welfare reform that occurred about the same time as Roe clearly increased out-of-wedlock births, why the ability to have an abortion legally would increase out-of-wedlock births is unclear, to say the least.
7.7.2008 4:28pm
John McCall (mail):
Lott's argument is: (1) legalized abortion was "certainly a key contributor" to the increase of out-of-wedlock births, (2) children born out of wedlock are more likely to commit crimes, and therefore (3) abortion leads to higher crime. Unfortunately, he has nothing but bare assertion to quantify (1). Is it true? Is it false? All I know is that he doesn't advance anything to justify it.

There's not really anything of value in this sort of thing, except maybe clarifying who's interested in honest debate.
7.7.2008 4:33pm
hattio1:
The conclusion in Freakonomics always seemed a little iffy to me. Basically they posit that because crime started dropping earlier in states which made abortion legal prior to Roe, that this confirms the Roe effect. However, they did nothing that I could see to control for transience. At least one of the states that legalized abortion pre-Roe, Alaska, is a very transient state, and was especially transient right around the time of Roe. The oil pipeline was built near then and dang near everyone in the state was from Texas or Oklahoma. There was even a bumper sticker popular that said "Happiness is seeing a Texan going home with an Okie under each arm." Transience that is that extreme has to mess with your population numbers.
7.7.2008 4:34pm
Guest101:
Perhaps the argument is that the availbility of abortion increased the incidence of unsafe non-marital sex, the reasoning being that unwanted pregnancies could be terminated? But, you'd expect that most people who had non-marital sex with the expectation of getting an abortion afterward would have followed through with that plan, so it's not clear why that explanation would account for an increase in out-of-wedlock births.
7.7.2008 4:38pm
musefree (www):
Directly quoting from the linked article:


To understand why abortion might not cut crime, one should first consider how dramatically it changed sexual relationships. Once abortion became widely available, people engaged in much more premarital sex, and also took less care in using contraceptives. Abortion, after all, offered a backup if a woman got pregnant, making premarital sex, and the nonuse of contraception, less risky. In practice, however, many women found that they couldn't go through with an abortion, and out-of-wedlock births soared.


Frankly, in the absence of supporting data, I do not buy this. Basically, Lott says that the moment Roe was passed,there was a hug chnge in sexual behavior, in particular a great increase in premarital sex. Furthemore, instances of premarital sex that ended up in babies which were then *not* aborted increased so dramatically as to outweigh the effect of the increased abortions after Roe....

BS.
7.7.2008 4:39pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Why would Roe have increased the number of out-of-wedlock births?

Because the possibility of abortion reduces the perceived cost of fornication (from $200k to raise a child to $250 to kill one). If the perceived cost of fornication declines, then fornication increases. More fornication=more out-of-wedlock-births since many mothers in practice chose not to commit infanticide and other government policies helped pay for the children.

The same effect was also produced by the existence of birth control. The mere existence of birth control technology (whether people use it or not) reduces the perceived cost of fornication.

Prior to 1960, the cost of OOWBs was high. Social disapprobation, lack of income to support mother and child, shotguns.

The 60s and 70s eliminated the disapprobation, shotguns, and lack of cash. More bastards resulted. If we happened to switch to calling bastards bastards, eliminated all public support (Medicaid), and brought out the (usually metaphorical) shotguns, OOWBs would plummet again.

I always thought that public employees (like Eugene) and recipients of government cash (SS) should be required as a condition of the receipt of such funds to verbally remonstrate fornicators, bastards, adulterers, and the unemployed. We know that government speech criticizing our dietary, health, and energy habits is common. What would be the problem to extending it to other human failings?

Instead we have a bastard likely to be nominated by a major party for president.
7.7.2008 4:40pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
While there are links to academic papers in the op-ed that Paul refers to, for those interested in why abortion legalization increases out of wedlock births you can find detailed links and a longer discussion here.
7.7.2008 4:47pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@Duncan Frissell:
"should be required [...] to verbally remonstrate"

It's a very interesting idea to suggest that in order to receive government funds, one must first publicly and vocally support the proper political opinions. Why stop there? Why not require the recipients of government funds to join a particular group, or work for a particular campaign, or even vote for a particular candidate? Maybe we could write down all the "proper" opinions in a little red, white, and blue book that people could be required to carry everywhere. We could even give them uniforms!

Oops, we have this pesky first amendment thing. And thank God for that.
7.7.2008 4:48pm
Mary Rosh (mail):
I know that I'd be likely to have an out-of-wedlock child if I could convince the brilliant and devilishly handsome John Lott to wrap me in his loving arms.
7.7.2008 4:50pm
DCTenor1:
So let me get this straight:

Roe --> Promiscuity --> Pregnancies --> People Not Having As Many Abortions As Expected

Score one for sophistry!
7.7.2008 4:50pm
James Lindgren (mail):
I have not looked at Lott's analysis, but the main Donohue-Levitt abortion-crime article had a glaring, embarrassing error. Levitt did not actually run the analysis he claimed to have run in the article.

When the data was re-analyzed by Foote &Goetz, they found that the hypothesized effect largely disappears.

Although some of Levitt's work is among the best done by any economist in the last two deacades (eg, the gang research), his two most famous scholarly articles -- the mayoral election-crime article and the abortion-crime article suffer from the same glaring error: He published analyses different from the ones he claimed to have published; when the data are analyzed as he himself intended to, the effects largely disappear.
7.7.2008 4:51pm
GV:
Why have out-of-wedlock biths been increasing for decades while at the same time abortion rates have been decreasing?
7.7.2008 4:52pm
Henry Bramlet (mail):
Part of the problem is that Lott actually links to the wrong one of his articles. His research is actually here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=270126

I find it funny that people who were happy to support the silly "Crime went down after abortion-legalization therefore Abortion Legalization caused the crime decrease" are so quick to dismiss the similar argument- "Out-of-wedlock births went up after abortion-legalization, therefore abortion-legalization caused out-of-wedlock births."

Now, Lott has shown (I think) demonstrative proof that the former correlation is *not* causal- (And if the kids born after Roe v Wade are more likely to be criminals, I think it pretty much blows causality out of the water there). They believe, on the other hand, that their research shows that the latter is causal.

Personally, I don't think that Roe v Wade was in itself a cause of out-of-wedlock births, but I do believe it was a part of the massive social upheaval in the 60s and 70s that resulted in the massive upswing of divorce-rates and OoW Births. From sexual liberation, to feminism, to contraception to abortion, we as a society totally changed the meanings of marriage, family and commitment.

Don't get me wrong- a lot of good came out of those social changes. But there were secondary effects, and I think it is pretty far-fetched to deny the connection between the two phenomenons.
7.7.2008 4:53pm
DCTenor1:
To "Mary Rosh": Hilarious.
7.7.2008 4:53pm
J. Aldridge:
Sound to me these guys have way too much time on their hands.
7.7.2008 4:55pm
Dave N (mail):
Instead we have a bastard likely to be nominated by a major party for president.
Huh?

I checked (what a concept!). Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham married on February 2, 1961, prior to the future Senator's birth on August 4, 1961. While simple arithmetic suggests that Barack, Jr. was likely conceived prior to his parent's marriage, that still would not make him a bastard, under the common definitions, from Dictionary.com : 1. a person born of unmarried parents; an illegitimate child.

Some might argue that Barack, Sr. had not divorced his first (Kenyan) wife prior to marrying Barack, Jr.'s mother, but that is even a more tangential stretch for the argument at hand.

As for John McCain, his father, John S. McCain, Jr. married his mother, on January 21, 1933, some 3 1/2 years before John III's birth on August 29, 1936.
7.7.2008 4:55pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Snark warning:

Eh, Duncan: just what is it that the "bastards" are being "remonstrated" about? That they carry with them the wages of sin, even unto the fourth generation? Will these forced remonstrators also pester heathens, idolators, and the occasional witch, while on the job? I can, BTW, get you a good deal on a tall black hat and shoes with buckles...

Now me, I'd like these remonstrators put to work pestering war profiteers, and members of the boards of directors of companies engaged in illegal pollution. Of course, this idea of mine is probably going to go as far as my "School prayer's OK as long as Buddhists get to pick the prayers" proposal...
7.7.2008 4:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
Duncan: "Because the possibility of abortion reduces the perceived cost of fornication (from $200k to raise a child to $250 to kill one). If the perceived cost of fornication declines, then fornication increases"

And this is the exact sort of analysis that most couples engage in in deciding whether to have that one night stand.

"Honey, let's do it tonight, pretty please! If we goof up and get you pregnant, it's okay, because I'm happy to pay for the abortion."

"I don't know, baby, I might want to raise this unexpected child, and that's going to cost me $200, 000."

"Wow, that's hot." Thumpa-thumpa.
7.7.2008 4:58pm
Bender (mail):
There have been a number of articles in the journal Demography (and other demography journals) over the last twenty years or so that present quite compelling evidence that the ready availability of abortion has significantly increased the number of children born outside of wedlock and other stable child-rearing formations. Most researchers believe that the mechanism causing this phenomenon is similar to that suggested by John Lott: Many couples fail to systematically use contraception because they rely on abortion as a backup birth method. In the event of conception, some of these couples, through inertia and a variety of other psychological mechanisms ultimately decide to bring to full-term children that probably would not have been conceived had they not perceived abortion as a readily available back up contraceptive.

Lott's argument vis-a-vis the relation between an increased availability of abortion and an increase in out-of-wedlock births is clear, compelling, and supported by research.

Anyone doubting this can do a subject search at http://popindex.princeton.edu/search/ (the on-line version of the old Population Index). The research is out there I just don't care to look it up because I don't really "have a dog in this fight."
7.7.2008 4:59pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
in order to receive government funds, one must first publicly and vocally support the proper political opinions

I know that's a problem for welfare recipients like those receiving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. But it can't be a problem with the millions of public employees who are currently required to promote government positions on thousands of subjects. Maybe Eugene would be protected by academic freedom, but the rest of the public workforce wouldn't be.

See Eugene's work on the government speech doctrine.
7.7.2008 5:00pm
James Lindgren (mail):
I should add that every knowledgeable pro-abortion social scientist who I've talked to thinks that Foote and Goetz are right (little or no effect) and Levitt and Donohue are wrong.

That does not mean that I would adopt the Lott thesis of a contrary effect without some very good evidence.

DISCLOSURE: I have consulted pro bono for NOW (Natl Org for Women) on their abortion clinic bombing lawsuit.
7.7.2008 5:01pm
Archit (www):
We get it. It wasn't the abortion legalization. It was the lead poisoning. See here for Levitt's take.
7.7.2008 5:05pm
Mary Rosh:
John Lott is a very serious scholar who has never committed fraud of any sort and never ever had the dog eat his homework in a computer crash, and all websites that aspire to scholarly respectability should make a habit of citing his non-peer-reviewed research.
7.7.2008 5:13pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The increase in fornication since 1960 was obviously caused by a host of factors that John mentions in his article linked above.

The argument is not that Roe v. Wade was the only cause. During the 1960s, birth control became more available. Before 1960, states banned birth control or restricted it to married women. In fact, prospective brides had to wait until after marriage to obtain prescriptions for diaphragms and other devices which increased the birth rate from the honeymoon.

The oral contraceptive became available in 1965.

Public assistance to "widows" expanded during the '60s and the programs stopped pretending that the recipients were all widows.

And as you can tell from my earlier post, the disappearance of words like fornication, lewd cohabitation, and bastard (or their slang equivalents) from common speech meant that there was less social discrimination against such activity.

All those factors lead to more OOWBs.

BTW, the reason I use such obsolete terms in my posts is both to demonstrate that they have disappeared and also the power that they once had. I get complaints about that usage (which I also practice in person), but since the terms are correct (where Nazi or Commie might not be), I can't imagine what the objection is. Isn't accuracy important?

The point is that married couples living with their natural children are wealthier, healthier, better educated, less prone to criminal activity, more likely to vote Republican, and have children who are wealthier, healthier, better educated, less prone to criminal activity, more likely to vote Republican.

Shouldn't such beneficial outcomes be encouraged?
7.7.2008 5:20pm
Ace:
Mary Rosh,

That joke is just awesome. Too bad so many here don't get it. For those trying to figure it out, here is a little help.

http://www.reason.com/news/show/28771.html
7.7.2008 5:24pm
Muskrat (mail):
On out-of-wedlock birth increases, is there any data on OOW pregnancies? Is it possible that more or less the same number of pregnancies happened, but the availability of abortion decreased the tendency of men to marry the mothers? The root cause and result would be the same but the mechanism would be different. It sounds callous, but then we are talking about guys here.....
7.7.2008 5:25pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Muskrat,

That's an interesting hypothesis. I could see guys making the rationalization (argument?), "I'm under no obligation to marry this woman because she's having a baby. She could've aborted it and avoided this whole mess."
7.7.2008 5:34pm
Oren:
Many couples fail to systematically use contraception because they rely on abortion as a backup birth method. In the event of conception, some of these couples, through inertia and a variety of other psychological mechanisms ultimately decide to bring to full-term children that probably would not have been conceived had they not perceived abortion as a readily available back up contraceptive.
So abortion increases OOWB because, despite being readily available, it's not readily available.

Shouldn't such beneficial outcomes be encouraged?
Absolutely, but coercion is not encouragement. It's one thing to attempt to convince the public of X and quite another to coerce people into saying that they do.
7.7.2008 5:35pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
We know Barack is a bastard. Forget the Wikipedia entry on his father: "Obama Sr. grew up in Nyangoma-Kogelo. At 18, he married a young woman named Kezia in a tribal ceremony. They had four children, two of them after he returned to Kenya from the United States. He never divorced Kezia, who now lives in Bracknell, England."

Read Time magazine or the Daily Mail on the topic. "But he also had a wife from a previous marriage there—a marriage that may or may not have been legal." and "Instead, Barack Sr met Barack Jr's mother, Ann, in Honolulu. She was an 18-year-old fellow student from Kansas and within months they were united in what appears to have been a bigamist marriage."

The Time Magazine suggestion that Barack Senior's first marriage may have been illegal was because it was a tribal marriage. Certainly the wife involved thinks it was genuine.
7.7.2008 5:42pm
CalvinTerBeek (mail):
Given that the subject matter is abortion, an individual's ability to convinced by the various data is, unsurprisingly, going to be informed by his political priors. The fact is that neither Levitt and Donohue's research nor Lott's research has sealed the deal. There is much more work to be done in this area, before anyone's conclusions should be accepted whole. For an evenhanded account of the state of the debate, I would check out Phillip Levine's book, Sex &Consequences or Jonathan Klick's work on econometric analyses of US abortion policy (31 Fordham Urb LJ 751 (2004).

The Mary Rosh joke(s) was harsh, but perhaps not totally undeserved.
7.7.2008 5:42pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear DCTenor1:

Possibly I can make it simplier. You have a big increase in pre-marital sex and a increase in pre-marital pregnancies. Many, but not all, women do avail themselves of the option to have an abortion, but if there is a large enough increase in pregnancies you can get an increase in out of wedlock births. There is also a big change in the social pressure for women who do not want to have an abortion to engage in premarital sex simply because of an increase in premarital sex by other women and the competition in the marriage market. Some women who know in advance that they are unwilling to have an abortion even if they become pregnant will start to engage in pre-marital sex simply because so many other women are engaging in it. When you combine that with the arguments for why you have fewer shotgun marriages after the liberalization of abortion rules as well as why you have a lower rate of children being put up for adoption, it is not too surprising that you will end up with an increase in single parent families. A number of scholars from Alberto Alesina to Jon Klick and Thomas Stratmann to Carl Moody to myself have done work on these issues, and I have provided links to these papers in the two op-eds. The issue then is whether you agree with all the research that shows that there is less investment in human capital for those children raised in a single parent family.
7.7.2008 5:43pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
BTW, law types should know that a bigamous marriage is void ab initio and thus no marriage. In fact at common law, subsequent marriage (after birth) did not legitimate a bastard. That law was changed until relatively recently.
7.7.2008 5:46pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Eh, Duncan: just what is it that the "bastards" are being "remonstrated" about?

You do it so that they and others will be discouraged from producing bastards themselves.
7.7.2008 5:48pm
torrentprime (mail):

The point is that married couples living with their natural children are wealthier, healthier, better educated, less prone to criminal activity, more likely to vote Republican, and have children who are wealthier, healthier, better educated, less prone to criminal activity, more likely to vote Republican.

Shouldn't such beneficial outcomes be encouraged?


Since Republican policies seem to be leading directly to poorer children, that cycle may not be self-sustaining.
7.7.2008 5:54pm
Sarcastro (www):
Judging people based on their status birth is a great idea! If Obama really wanted to be President he would have shown the chracter not to have been born a bastard!

I also think that shame and indoctrination to prevent OoW pregnancies are totally worthy uses of state power. After all, there exists a hypothetical weak causal connection to crime! We all hate crime, yes? So what's a little propiganda and loss of acedemic freedom if it might redice crime, eh?

Of course, aborting all black babies would reduce crime more, as has been pointed out previously. I'm sure Duncan was just getting to that point.

But first, I expect him to point out that faggot just means a bundle of sticks.

What? It does! the term is correct, I can't imagine what the objection is.
7.7.2008 5:59pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I don't know how you separate Roe v Wade from the rest of the sexual revolution, but I am not surprised that when there is less deep-rooted objection to pre-marital sex (as Prof. Lott says at 4:43pm) the deep-rooted objection to OOWB also falls, and you get one of those paradigm shifts, and OOWBs increase. (BEFORE: OOWB = the mother is a slut. AFTER: OOWB = the mother didn't have particularly much more sex than anyone else, but decided to have an OOWB.)

I suppose other intermediate bad things (whether it's primary syphillis, or any kind risky behavior) can go up when the costs are perceived as less, and if people misjudge then the total cost could go up instead of down.

It would be nice if we could decrease OOWBs while maintaining some of the good that came at the same time. Since we don't have time machines, it's only of academic interest if things were better or worse in the good old days (and for whom.)

Disclaimer: I'm a single father (so watch your generalizations please.)
7.7.2008 6:08pm
Oren:
Some women who know in advance that they are unwilling to have an abortion even if they become pregnant will start to engage in pre-marital sex simply because so many other women are engaging in it.
One would imagine that if they know, a priori, that they won't have an abortion they would use birth control, barriers or the morning-after pill. It's not like those contraceptives are hard to find, what with Griswold and all.
7.7.2008 6:08pm
alkali (mail):
One commenter writes:

The conclusion in Freakonomics always seemed a little iffy to me. Basically they posit that because crime started dropping earlier in states which made abortion legal prior to Roe, that this confirms the Roe effect. However, they did nothing that I could see to control for transience [i.e., the fact that people move from state to state].

I'm not on any particular side of this particular debate, but this misunderstands the idea of a control.

Controls are used to exclude relationships from an analysis. You don't control for phenomena that you don't expect to push the result in one direction or the other. That's why medical researchers don't control for, e.g., a patient's astrological sign or the last two digits of their SSN. It's random and you don't expect it to influence the result.

With respect to transience, presumably some people moved from early-legalized-abortion states to late-legalized-abortion states, and some people moved in the other direction. The "noise" generated by that transience may make the results of the analysis statistically weak, but there's no reason that I can see that it would have any particular impact on the result. As such, there's no reason to control for it. (If you could come up with a plausible reason, that would be a different situation.)

Note also that asserting that an author should have controlled for X is easy. Actually controlling for X may be hard or impossible. Do you happen to have handy a good set of data showing how Americans moved from state to state in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s? I sure don't. Sometimes such data is available to researchers, and sometimes it's not. Sometimes you can use a "proxy" as a substitute for that control data set (e.g., coffee and soda consumption might be a good proxy for caffeine consumption) and sometimes you can't. Responsible authors who don't have the data to incorporate likely candidates for controls in their analysis often make note of that in their results, but that doesn't mean their results aren't any good or shouldn't have been published.
7.7.2008 6:11pm
Anon21:
Duncan Frissell: Under current Hawaii law, children born of prohibited marriages are legitimate. That one party had a surviving spouse upon entering into the marriage would be sufficient grounds to render the marriage prohibited. Do you have any evidence that the current Hawaii law regarding legitimacy has been changed since 1961, and that in 1961, when Barack Obama was born, he would in fact have been considered illegitimate, assuming, as you do, that his parents' marriage was bigamous and thus prohibited? If not, your characterization of Barack Obama as a "bastard" lacks evidence to substantiate it, and if you are intellectually honest you will stop making that characterization.
7.7.2008 6:12pm
hattio1:
Alkali,
The assumption in Freakonomics is that the crime rate fell first in Alaska (and other states where abortion was legal pre-Roe) before it fell in other states because they legalized abortion and there was less unwanted former kids committing crimes. However, if a large portion of the Alaska population came from states which restricted abortion, this will throw the statistics off (unwanted children would still be moving with their parents, etc.).
7.7.2008 6:27pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
The next time someone on the religious right wails about a genocide of 37 million babies I will point them to this thread and argue that abortion causes babies.
7.7.2008 6:32pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Mary Rosh: "John Lott is a very serious scholar who has never committed fraud of any sort and never ever had the dog eat his homework in a computer crash, and all websites that aspire to scholarly respectability should make a habit of citing his non-peer-reviewed research."

Be careful. You don't want to get sued for libel like Levitt.
7.7.2008 6:43pm
Katl L (mail):
Abortion was legal before roe.The Court made it a constituional right
7.7.2008 6:44pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Katl L: Exactly how many states had legal abortions before Roe?

It's fair enough to say that abortion was "illegal" before Roe.
7.7.2008 6:49pm
John McCall (mail):
Two economists are arguing in the hall over a section from a recent newspaper. "How can you deny that these trends show clear evidence of a recession?!", one asks. The other responds, "I've told you a hundred times, any proper analysis demonstrates a sustained period of moderate growth!" The argument grows heated, and an annoyed statistician opens his door and borrows the paper. "Ah," he says, "the Phillies are up by 3 in the East. Carry on, gentlemen."
7.7.2008 6:56pm
U.Va. 3L:
Duncan Frissell: Under current Hawaii law, children born of prohibited marriages are legitimate. That one party had a surviving spouse upon entering into the marriage would be sufficient grounds to render the marriage prohibited. Do you have any evidence that the current Hawaii law regarding legitimacy has been changed since 1961, and that in 1961, when Barack Obama was born, he would in fact have been considered illegitimate, assuming, as you do, that his parents' marriage was bigamous and thus prohibited? If not, your characterization of Barack Obama as a "bastard" lacks evidence to substantiate it, and if you are intellectually honest you will stop making that characterization.

Actually, it looks like Hawaii law has been that way since at least 1949, when it was still a territory. So absent the unlikely event that Hawaii changed its law to "bastardize" Obama, then changed it back, it looks like he was legitimate in the eyes of the law.
7.7.2008 7:09pm
U.Va. 3L:
Katl L: Exactly how many states had legal abortions before Roe?

It's fair enough to say that abortion was "illegal" before Roe.


FWIW, there were only four states with legal abortion before Roe: Alaska, Hawaii, New York, and Washington. IIRC, none legalized abortion before 1965, but I might have that date wrong.
7.7.2008 7:10pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Steve Sailer noted this long ago. His page on it is here.
7.7.2008 7:10pm
Dave N (mail):
Chris Bell,

Prochoice.org claims that 1/3 of all states allowed abortion in one form or another pre-Roe. Here is a map.

I am no fan of Roe. Frankly, it is an issue that belongs to each of the states. But to claim that abortion was illegal pre-Roe is flat out dishonest.
7.7.2008 7:10pm
John Neff:
Golly John Lott and Mary Rosh a the same time. Imagine that.
7.7.2008 7:20pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
Has anyone tested the hypothesis that increased rates of abortion might benefit pre-existing siblings who thereby receive more love, attention and other parental resources? If that hypothesis were true, then more abortions might reduce crime in age cohorts born before abortion became more common.
7.7.2008 7:38pm
ReaderY:
It's never struck me that these sorts of analyses ought to be the basis of decisions.

It's a well-known fact that medicine increases the incidence and prevalence of disease. There's no denying that keeping sick people alive increases the percentage of the diseased population. And there's no question that if we simply shot them as soon as possible, this would make the population as a whole, on average, healthier. Cost a lot less money, too.

But should these sorts of social science and economic considerations really be the basis for health care policy on these matters? By suffering the sick to live and permitting doctors to ply their trade, even actually helping them do so, there's no question we are incresing the amount of sickness prevalent in society, reducing its overall health, and incurring much greater health care costs. Yet there is no question in my mind that this policy is worth the price.
7.7.2008 7:46pm
LM (mail):

And as you can tell from my earlier post, the disappearance of words like fornication, lewd cohabitation, and bastard (or their slang equivalents) from common speech meant that there was less social discrimination against such activity.

What's the slang equivalent of "bastard" that would restore the proper level of opprobrium? "Dirty bastard?"
7.7.2008 7:46pm
ReaderY:
It should also be noted that it was vigorously argued in the 19th century that slavery tended to reduce crime and that ending slavery would only increase the population of the unwanted.

Perhaps the 13th Amendment was a mistake. By creating a population with no definite place that remained at best ambiguously wanted by the rest of society, it probably did more to increase crime -- by whites as well as blacks -- then other social policy we've ever had.
7.7.2008 7:48pm
Tom72 (mail):
Possibly this is just obvious to me, but everyone single person who is attacking Lott over the claims about Rosh using an anonymous pseudonym and a non-functioning email address. Of course, it is possible that there is only one person using all these different names.
7.7.2008 7:54pm
Seamus (mail):
We know that government speech criticizing our dietary, health, and energy habits is common. What would be the problem to extending it to other human failings?

The same problem as the one that exists now with current government hectoring about diet, health, and energy habits.
7.7.2008 8:06pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Dave N:

Perhaps you should read more closely.

"By 1910 all but one state had criminalized abortion except where necessary, in a doctor's judgment, to save the woman's life."

"In the years before Roe v. Wade, the estimates of illegal abortions ranged as high as 1.2 million per year."

"Between 1967 and 1973 one-third of the states liberalized or repealed their criminal abortion laws."

The article doesn't define liberalize, but I think it means the states went from "no abortions" to "abortions only to save the life of the mother." I wouldn't agree that abortions were legally available in those states.

UVa3L cited the statistic most commonly repeated, that 4 states had "legal" abortions before Roe. Meaning, in those 4 states you could walk into the doctor's office, say you wanted an abortion, and then you would get one.
7.7.2008 8:07pm
James Fulford (mail):
Steve Sailer wrote as follows

There's a famous book about economists by Robert Heilbroner called The Worldly Philosophers. But I've noticed that economists are strikingly oblivious to the obvious. For example, Steven D. Levitt of Freakonomics fame made himself into a superstar among his fellow economists by arguing that legalizing abortion in the early 1970s cut the crime rate sharply in the mid-1990s. I pointed out in Slate.com in 1999 that he had simply failed to notice that, in direct contradiction of his theory, violent crime among teens born right after legalization had soared during 1987-1994. Apparently, none of the prominent economists to whom he presented his theory before its public unveiling had recalled the crack wars either.


That is to say that the period when we would have seen the vanishing crime was the same period depicted in Boyz In The Hood and New Jack City--the period when the murder rate in NYC was always over 2000 a year. It's something that's hard to miss, even for an economist.
7.7.2008 8:20pm
Oren:

The next time someone on the religious right wails about a genocide of 37 million babies I will point them to this thread and argue that abortion causes babies.

QFT.
7.7.2008 8:37pm
wooga:
"Deregulating abortion would then reduce criminality first among age groups born after the abortion laws changed, when the "unwanted," crime-prone elements began to be weeded out. Yet when we look at the declining murder rate during the 1990s, we find that this is not the case at all. Instead, murder rates began falling first among an older generation — those over 26 — born before Roe."


Perhaps the murder rate declined because those pre-Roe thugs over 26 didn't have so many annoying young post-Roe punks who needed killin'.
[/joke]
7.7.2008 8:41pm
PubliusFL:
Chris Bell: The next time someone on the religious right wails about a genocide of 37 million babies I will point them to this thread and argue that abortion causes babies.

That's a little like arguing that fathering a number of children in excess of the number of victims should be a valid defense against homicide charges. Causing a life and taking a life don't balance out.
7.7.2008 8:43pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
"Why punish the innocent for the sins of their parents?"

The suggestion is made that disapprobation of bastards is wrong because they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

On the other hand, lefties are happy to countenance infanticide for population control or to make pregnant women's life easier.

They are also willing to trap children in garbage public schools to preserve the principle of public education.

They are also willing to consign children to single parent or single gender families so that irresponsible adults can carry on their casual and irresponsible lives and sexual recreations.

They are also willing to make innocent hard working people poorer in order to redress income inequality (which happens to be the result of some people working and some people not).

Lots of innocents abused.
7.7.2008 8:51pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Joke, Publius. Joke.
7.7.2008 8:56pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Shouldn't such beneficial outcomes be encouraged?

Absolutely, but coercion is not encouragement


Eliminating public assistance and encouraging people to verbally abuse fornicators is not coercion. It is economic incentivization and verbal encouragement of right behavior.

The government could also legalize marital status discrimination and discrimination against inferior social arrangements which is not coercion and in fact restores our natural liberty to express our opinions of others by disfellowship.
7.7.2008 9:01pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Problem- illegitimacy rates were rising rapidly before Roe. The rate more than doubled between 1960 and 1970.

Essentially Lott would have us believe sexual predilictions were altering in expectation of legalized abortion.
7.7.2008 9:26pm
H Bowman, MD:
Chris Bell: In many states (including California, and Mass, to my personal knowledge: States I did my medical training in) abortions were done quite frequently, even though they were illegal. They were usually called 'TABs' (Therapeutic abortions) and invariably they were a D&C to remove the products of an alleged spontaneous abortion.

Except they weren't. But, prior to a lot of involvement by the government or insurance companies in health care, the patient paid their bill, and that was that. Nowdays they would be considered insurance or medicare fraud.

Abortions may not have been legal but they were common, in more populous states. I have it on good authority from colleagues that they were being performed in Chicago and New York, as well.
7.7.2008 9:37pm
frankcross (mail):
This is an awfully dense thicket for me. I looked through the links and couldn't find the evidence on illegimacy, maybe I missed something, there were lots of links.

Lott does have an empirical piece suggesting that abortion increased murder rates, using additional data. It seems that piece also showed that imprisonment had a trivial effect and executions a questionable effect. Such results suggest the model may be misspecified. Or those law enforcement efforts aren't worth the cost, it would appear.
7.7.2008 9:44pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
If not, your characterization of Barack Obama as a "bastard" lacks evidence to substantiate it, and if you are intellectually honest you will stop making that characterization.

The status of illegitimacy has been completely eliminated in Western legal codes. I am perfectly aware of this fact and have been for decades. All children are the legitimate issue of their parents (sometimes 3 or more parents in modern jurisprudence).

I'm not saying Barack is illegitimate at law. I'm saying he's illegitimate in fact (not the child of a lawfull marriage). Two different things.

Likewise Bill Clinton's parents may have contracted a bigamous marriage. Can't the Democrats find any legitimate candidates? I'm certain Hillary is legitimate.
7.7.2008 9:44pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Since Republican policies seem to be leading directly to poorer children, that cycle may not be self-sustaining.

Republican policies haven't made the children of married parents poorer. They're richer (at least until the last 6 months).

They also haven't made the children of unmarried parents poorer (reality did that).
7.7.2008 9:47pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
For every argument there is an equal and opposing argument - nothing is true and everything is wrong.

That being said, it seems abundantly clear and obvious to me that unwanted children increase crime. Abortion reduces the number of unwanted children. Thus abortion indirectly reduces crime. But so do many other factors.
7.7.2008 9:48pm
CCM:

Instead we have a bastard likely to be nominated by a major party for president.


And if the woman drowns at the bottom of the well.. then she is not a witch.
7.7.2008 10:00pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Therapeutic abortion was legal in most states during the whole period when elective abortions were outlawed:
Well-connected white women with private health insurance were sometimes able to obtain "therapeutic" abortions, a never-defined category that remained legal throughout the epoch of illegal abortion. But these were rare, and almost never available to nonwhite or poor women.

In spite of the above, such abortions were widespread before the 1950s and the private health insurance line is wrong because most people didn't have health insurance at all prior to the '60s. Those who could pay could often obtain abortions.
7.7.2008 10:08pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Frank Cross writes:

Lott does have an empirical piece suggesting that abortion increased murder rates, using additional data. It seems that piece also showed that imprisonment had a trivial effect and executions a questionable effect. Such results suggest the model may be misspecified. Or those law enforcement efforts aren't worth the cost, it would appear.

In fact, if you look at Table 3 in the paper, there was a consistent, substantial, and quite statistically significant reduction in murder from having more people in prison. The same is true for arrest rates for murder. The effect of executions is the only law enforcement variable that is not always statistically significant, though it is of the expected effect. With respect to the prison population variable, remember that the coefficient represents the impact from one more person in prison (you also have to remember that only about 1 percent of prisoners are there for murder). The specification shown in column 6 give you a better idea of the elasticities. Again, with the sole exception of the executions in some specifications, I don't understand why you think that these specifications imply a questionable relationship between law and enforcement and murder rates.
7.7.2008 11:33pm
Randy R. (mail):
Duncan: "You do it so that they and others will be discouraged from producing bastards themselves."

Yes, because that worked so well for centuries...

You haven't blamed gays yet for abortions and bastards. Why the reticence?
7.7.2008 11:41pm
theobromophile (www):
I've skimmed, so my apologies if this is repetitive.

On OOWB, pregnancy, and sexual activity: some of the men that I've dated have used the existence of abortion as a reason to fornicate. I distinctly remember stating to one then-boyfriend that I was unwilling to take ANY risk of pregnancy, which would ruin my ability to get an education and have the life I want for myself. His immediate response? "Just have an abortion." Now, the plural of anecdote is hardly data, but I'll offer that only to show that the abortion availability -> more sexual activity -> more OOWB is not completely baseless.

Second, as a person who believes in both the humanity of the unborn and the rule of law, I simply do not care whether or not access to abortion reduces crime. The theory is that it is acceptable to end a person's life because he is slightly more likely than another person to commit a crime (violent, non-violent, deadly, non-lethal, who cares) in the future.

Thankfully, we do not live in a society that preemptively arrests people based on their profile (genes, parents, address, or grades), on the basis that they may do something criminal, and treat them as criminals. It is even more abomindable, IMHO, to give the death penalty preemptively. The fact that it is done by private parties does not change the (im)morality of the action (and, in fact, makes it worse, as these (very young) people are not even given the protections of a civilised society - trial, counsel, etc); the end result is still to justify ending a human life, based not on principles of just retribution for a criminal act, but the mere heightened possibility of being a criminal.

I find it remarkably strange that those who seek to abolish the death penalty, even for the most heinous of crimes, are the ones justifying death and advocating for its continued legalisation based upon possible future criminal action.

/today's pro-life rant
7.8.2008 12:19am
Mutant Pacifist 2 (mail) (www):
Lott still admits that abortion would reduce the number of criminals -- IF irresponsible single mothers would go through with abortions and not rear children whose father's abandoned them. After all, premarital sex isn't what makes criminals, if no children are born to those shameless promiscuous ones. Only if they proceed to bear bastards! So clearly those who guilt trip teen mothers into having children are responsible for crime.
7.8.2008 12:36am
Andy Berg:

This is an interesting response of Levine and Donohue, not to Lott but to Foote and Goetz. I didn't read it carefully, but they admit the error but find that a careful look at the data (and you should read before dismissing) still preserves their results. They argue that Foote and Goetz introduce lots of measurement error that attenuates the results and that they can with care work around this error. They actually control somehow for inter-state mobility (mentioned in an early comment above), I gather.
7.8.2008 1:19am
Andy Berg:
Oops, I meant to post this link:

7.8.2008 1:21am
WallaceH (mail):
If Levitt and Donohue were serious about dealing with measurement error, they would use the supplemental homicide report data that closely links the data on the characteristics of the criminal when he is arrested with the original crime. The FBI UCR data that they use doesn't do that. You have the average murder solved about 9 months after the crime. Some are only solved after many years. By not using the supplemental homicide report data, Donohue and Levitt introduce huge amounts of measurement error because the characteristics of the criminal obtained from arrests (including the birth year) are put into a different year from when the crime occurred. They never explain why they don't use the supplemental homicide report data used by Lott to avoid this very measurement error problem.
7.8.2008 2:59am
FantasiaWHT:

Duncan: "You do it so that they and others will be discouraged from producing bastards themselves."

Yes, because that worked so well for centuries...


Except that it did... as has been pointed out, illegitimacy rates soared starting in the 60's, when the social attitude toward illegitimacy became much more accepting.
7.8.2008 9:00am
alkali (mail):
hattio1 writes:

The assumption in Freakonomics is that the crime rate fell first in Alaska (and other states where abortion was legal pre-Roe) before it fell in other states because they legalized abortion and there was less unwanted former kids committing crimes. However, if a large portion of the Alaska population came from states which restricted abortion, this will throw the statistics off (unwanted children would still be moving with their parents, etc.).

Theoretically, sure. My point was that if you're going to criticize Levitt/Donohue for failing to control for interstate movement, then you need to offer some plausible reason to think something like that actually happened. You can't just say, hey, maybe X is the reason, and boo on the author for not proving otherwise.
7.8.2008 9:05am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
John Lott is Exhibit A that the conservative pseudo-academy has (even) lower ethical standards than the traditional Academy. Why is anything this fabulist writes taken seriously, even if this time he might be correct?
7.8.2008 10:02am
Shinobi (mail):
I feel compelled to point out, that while legal abortion likely increased the number of abortions that occured in the US, abortions WERE available pre-Roe. They were extremely dangerous, but many women turned to back alley abortionists and even home remedys when they could no longer afford more children, or to avoid the shame of OOWB. Statistics on the exact numbers of illegal abortions are obviously very difficult to obtain. However this study from the 90s showed that abortion rates in countries where abortion was illegal were no different than countries where it was legal.

The assumption that there was no abortion before Roe is obviously flawed, which means hypothesis about Roe's effects that do not take this into account are similarly flawed.
7.8.2008 11:14am
Aultimer:

Duncan Frissell trolled:

"Why punish the innocent for the sins of their parents?"

The suggestion is made that disapprobation of bastards is wrong because they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

On the other hand, lefties are happy to countenance infanticide for population control or to make pregnant women's life easier.

They are also willing [snip]

Lots of innocents abused.



That may be the most soundly thrashed strawman in the history of VC.

The fact remains that nostalgia for social control through disapprobation is largely fantasy fueled by the anecdotal fallacy. Oh, the good old days.
7.8.2008 11:15am
JimmyH (mail) (www):

Crime is best correlated to economic well being. or more, to the perception of economic fairness. The abortion meme being touted is absurd.

In the 90's the largest criminal group of the time (young black males) looked around and said it's better to program computers than to boost cars; and thus there was a decline. This perceived fairness ran counter to a perceived (and actual) unfairness they suffered less and less up until the 90's.

Our system still fosters the problem now though by creating unfairness in the form of crack-downs on minor improprieties that lead to unreasonable probation requirements and subsequent incarceration of non-criminal criminals. This ever-growing arrest, prosecution and incarceration machine creates crime and thus the cure is the cause. Their solution? More 'TOUGH ON CRIME!' proponents that cost us a fortune, add no value to society, and contribute to the problem. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Again… it's economic well being (local and perceived) that contribute to decreases in violent crime no matter how much the army of cops want to take credit for it. If someone believes the system is fair to them they will play by the rules. If they think it is unfair they will have no respect for any of the rules and feel it their due to respond reflexively like an animal to any situation.

Sadly it's all a matter of education about real opportunity for people who are willing to play by the rules, work hard, make sacrifices and succeed. Unfortunately we have a whole political apparatus in this country that is built upon telling everyone that the world IS unfair; that they should be discontent, and they point to other hard-working successful people as the reason these people are poor and don't have a chance.

Sowing discontent in this way is for political gain is simply evil and attains all of the expected results.
7.8.2008 11:16am
Mutant Pacifist (mail) (www):
>The theory is that it is acceptable to end a person's life because he is slightly more likely than another person to commit a crime (violent, non-violent, deadly, non-lethal, who cares) in the future. <

Well, I think the theory was actually that UNWANTED children are more likely to grow up to be criminals. I used to work with teenage delinquents, most of whom were unwanted children whose fathers abandoned them after the night of conception and whose drugged or drunk mothers were too lazy to get abortions but still had no interest or ability to raise children. (These are no doubt the ones who fit Lott's description of women who are more likely to be single mothers because of the acceptability of such status.) These poor kids would suffer 10 to 15 years of abuse and torture at the hands of their parent/s before finally running away to start their own lives of crime. They would say to me things like, "I wish I had never been born." You see, an unwanted child is usually well aware of being unwanted. Their punishment preceded their crime. Obama had it backwards though. It wasn't the parents being punished with a child, it was a child being punished with irresponsible parents.

Interestingly, I've heard that adoptions have also been made extremely difficult since abortion became easier. I wonder if there has been any study on whether widespread adoption affects crime rates?

How about the crime rate in China? Up or down since they started pushing abortions and anti-natalism? They also still stigmatize bastards, I believe. In theory that should be the ideal combination, right? Except that they've had a whole generation of disproportionate number of males, who in general commit more crimes. Any statistics?
7.8.2008 11:27am
starrydeceases:
I think the lead theory presents a much more compelling case for an explanation of violent crime rate changes. I also found it very interesting that Levitt claims never to have heard of Rick Nevin and his work. This information has been available for quite a number of years, and has ben reported on extensively. I think I may have posted a fair bit about it here on the VC some time ago.
7.8.2008 11:43am
hattio1:
Alkali,
Re-read my comment. I did provide a reason to believe something like that happened. It DID happen in Alaska. Around the time of the pipeline Alaska's population nearly doubled in something like 5 years. READ.
7.8.2008 1:29pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
And this is the exact sort of analysis that most couples engage in in deciding whether to have that one night stand.

"Honey, let's do it tonight, pretty please! If we goof up and get you pregnant, it's okay, because I'm happy to pay for the abortion."

"I don't know, baby, I might want to raise this unexpected child, and that's going to cost me $200, 000."

"Wow, that's hot." Thumpa-thumpa.
Randy, it doesn't matter whether "most couples" do this. It only matters whether some couples do, and so it affects behavior at the margins. Nor does it matter whether people do this consciously; only whether it affects behavior. Presumably nobody comes out and says, "Since I have airbags, I'm going to drive unsafely today," but airbags nevertheless cause people to drive less safely.
7.8.2008 1:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Presumably nobody comes out and says, "Since I have airbags, I'm going to drive unsafely today," but airbags nevertheless cause people to drive less safely.

And your evidence for this statement is what exactly? The declining highway mortality rate or the fact that the history of the automobile, and evil government mandated safety features, is one of declining accident and death rates?
7.8.2008 2:16pm
Abandon:
Seriously, we rely on a discredited academician (on both conservative and liberal sides!), who committed intellectual fraud, to study a much controversial phenomenon? Paul Cassell, can't you find any better?
7.8.2008 4:36pm
WallaceH (mail):
OK, anonymous "Abandon," and we are supposed to give your claims credence because you say so? Do you have any substance to add to this discussion? Lott provides his data and his sources to all comers. OK, so Levitt doesn't always apparently do that, yet he has provided his data in this particular case. The question here should be the logic of the arguments and what the data indicates, not silly name calling against Donohue and Levitt on the liberal side and Lott on the conservative side. Again, do you have anything of substance to add Mr. anonymous "Abandon." Note that it was already noticed earlier by Tom that all these making attacks (or possibly the one person doing it over and over again) are doing so anonymously and are not even providing their email addresses.
7.8.2008 5:23pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
JFT: the claim that airbags (and seat belts before them) lead to less safe driving is not even controversial. Check out some of Sam Peltzman's work for an example. Also see Peterson and Hoffer's research. "Declining mortality rate" is an entirely separate issue from accident rates.
7.8.2008 6:06pm
ReaderY:
Under this argument it would be just as reasonable to blame doctors for the level of sickness in society. Doctors, by keeping sick people alive, increase the rate of prevalence of disease -- number of sick people divided by total population -- and unquestionably reduce its overall health as well as health care costs. If we simply shot people as soon as they became sick, there's no question that society's overall health, as measured by both disease prevalence and health care costs, would increase.

Is it really reasonable to blame doctors for the existence of disease and to conclude that is doctor's efforts to keep sick people alive that is responsible for the level of ill-health in society? The correlation is there, it's even stronger than as the correlation between abortion and reducing crime being presented to us. But is there really a causality?

The "reducing abortion causes crime" argument is logically identical to this one. Is it really a valid argument? If it is, and if steps to enhance the survival of a troubled group can really be said to cause trouble because of its undeniable tendency to increase its prevalence (percent of the surviving population who have it), then we ought to outlaw medicine. Should we?

To give the argument in any other context is to see how absurd this argument is. No one would take this argument seriously if given about any other subject. Its fallacious character, the old "correlation is causation" fallacy taken to a rediculous extreme, is just too apparent. One has to have not only already concluded that abortion is a good thing on other grounds, but ones emothional attachment to this conclusion has to utterly trump any sense of scientific rigor or common logic, for anyone to be able to perceive this obviously nonsensical, junk-science argument as anything other than rediculous.

This is voodoo, not science, numerology, not statistics. It's a smoke-and-mirrors charlatanism that persuades the ignorant by presenting a superficial patina of quantitative-style arguments whose association with genuine logic or scientific reasoning is based solely on appearance and window-dressing, not substance.
7.8.2008 7:28pm
ReaderY:
Safety devices in cars are also a good example of this argument's rediculousness. Safety devices that reduce fatalities are often correlated with an increase in the prevalance of accident-related suffering and trauma -- the risk that any given member of society is suffering from accident-related pain -- by enhancing the survival of accident victims.

Safety devices are correlated with a net increase in pain in the population because otherwise people now in pain would be dead. But is it really legitimate to say that safety devices cause pain, or to suggest that because of this relationship, society should not promote or favor such interventions because of the pain they bring?
7.8.2008 7:35pm
ReaderY:
Same with AIDS or cancer drugs. Do they really cause AIDs- or cancer-related suffering?
7.8.2008 7:36pm
ReaderY:
It's certainly true that the problems that arise when a primary problem blocked their appearance is resolved can be real and very serious. Increased longevity means people have to cope with all kinds of geriatric problems that most people used to die without ever experiencing; abundant food leads to diseases like heart disease and diabetes; our ability to mitigate chronic diseases like AIDS, diabetes, and cancer without being able to cure them means lots of people are living with serious chronic health problems who previously would have died without experiencing; our ability to increase the survival rate from accidents and premature births means that many more people have serious disabilities and have to be cared for who previously would simply have died.

These problems are serious and I don't mean to make light of them. In many cases, we can and should do things to alleviate them (for example, our sedentary, couch-potato lifestyle and the kinds of food we choose to eat are not necessarily inevitable.)

However, it is still not a logically supportable approach to conculude that enhancing survival causes the problems the extra life brings to the survivors or to regard these problems exclusively without considering the positive benefits life offers. And it is an even more troubling approach, logically as well as morally, to blame suffering on compassion and to claim that the ruthless and the murderous are morally better than the compassionate simply because the dead feel less pain than the quick. This has been a common argument in particularly oppressive societies: slaveholders regularly claimed they were alleviating the suffering that an unwanted population without socially defined means of support would inevitably experience. And the eugenicists among us made similar claims.

One common root of these sorts of arguments is that those who make them never ask the people involved what they think, they act as if they were simply objects without a voice. It's very important not to project ones own feelings and beliefs on others, or at least to be aware that this what one is doing when one does it.

There are many people in this society who grew up with, and suffered from, the knowledge that they were unwanted pregnancies. I am one of them. Many of us have had to deal with significant disabilities in life, particularly because there is no defined category that covers us and our difficulties are often attributed to rebelliousness or malingering. It's usually assumed that people with low self-esteem deserve it, so teaching children that they are unwanted sets them up for failure in ways very difficult to undo, and which usually result in a lot of dissappointment and suffering no matter what the ultimate outcome. Before making claims about our interests and what would be good for us, it would be worth asking us if we agree with the assumptions you are making about us, and if we think they hold any water. We're not anonymous objects. We're flesh and blood, your neighbors.
7.9.2008 12:27am
Shake-N-Bake:
On OOWB, pregnancy, and sexual activity: some of the men that I've dated have used the existence of abortion as a reason to fornicate. I distinctly remember stating to one then-boyfriend that I was unwilling to take ANY risk of pregnancy, which would ruin my ability to get an education and have the life I want for myself. His immediate response? "Just have an abortion." Now, the plural of anecdote is hardly data, but I'll offer that only to show that the abortion availability -> more sexual activity -> more OOWB is not completely baseless.

And on the other hand I have never known a single guy who thinks that way. Condoms, even though they kinda suck, are way cheaper than an abortion, and way way way cheaper than child support payments.

The data seems to clearly show the change in OOWB rate was well before Roe. I don't know how anyone can therefore claim with a straight face that OOWB change was due to Roe. If the decision had any effect, it's got to be a small one because the data just plain doesn't show it. Blame it on the Sexual Revolution that started 10 years prior. And you can't unring that bell.

I'm not surprised Leavitt was wrong though either.
7.9.2008 8:54pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Shake: I think Theo was asking her former boyfriend "But what if the condom breaks?" It's a reasonable question. I think I assumed, with all of the (handful) of pre-marital relationships I had that were sexual, that abortion was the fallback position. (Actually, prayer was the fallback position, like the time the condom got loose. Abortion was the fallback to that fallback.)

I'm posting here late because I was thinking about Duncan saying "bastard". Next door to Gloucester, home of the now-questioned national story about a pregnancy pact among teenage girls, the annual Parade of Horribles in toney Beverly Farms made fun of the situation. At first the Boston Herald took the class angle, portraying this as a class war with the rich folks making fun of the poor folks, but then (sensing which way the wind was blowing?) they remembered that besides being working class, the Herald is conservative, and an op-ed and a column came out in favor of shame and ridicule as tools against teen pregnancy. (Unlike Duncan's approach, the shame and ridicule was going against the mother's, not the bastards.)
7.10.2008 4:33pm