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
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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 abortion...is 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.