CHICAGO—A study which links the 1990s drop in crime with the dramatic rise of abortion in the 1970s has shocked many social critics and pro-life advocates, who see the report as an endorsement of abortion—with racial overtones.
The authors of the “Legalized Abortion and Crime” denied that their as-yet unpublished study promotes abortion.
Yet the study's premise—that those who would have committed crimes were aborted in the years following the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—is viewed by many as promoting not only abortion, but eugenics as well.
“The abortion-related reduction in crime is predominantly attributable to a decrease in crime per capita among the young,” the report said. It then suggests that two “mechanisms” could account for crime decreases, “selective abortion on the part of women most at risk to have children who would engage in criminal activity, and improved childbearing or environmental circumstances caused by better maternal, familial, or fetal circumstances.”
Rejecting the claim that reduced crime is a result of improved policing techniques in urban areas like New York, the authors of the report cite cities like Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, where crime has gone down without them. “While all of these factors may have served to dampen crime to some degree, we consider a novel explanation for the sudden crime drop of the 1990's: the decision to legalize abortion over a quarter century ago,” the report said.
Critics of the report said they don't object to the claim that fewer young people would result in fewer crimes. What they object to is the suggestion that minorities are more likely to commit crime and thus abortion, which reduces their numbers, should be welcome.
“We didn't have any interest in stepping into the abortion debate,” Stanford University law professor John Donohue, one of the report's authors, told the Register.
Referring to him and co-author Steve Levitt, a University of Chicago economics professor, Donohue said, “We have written several papers on crime, but couldn't explain the drop. In the course of our studies we stumbled upon the data of abortion—that it may be linked with the drop in crime.
“Our view is that nothing in the paper should be seen as an endorsement of abortion, [though] obviously we're concerned about the negative consequences of bringing unwanted children into the world. But there are many ways of avoiding births that don't rely on abortion.”
He added that the controversy surrounding the report is “a bit of a media issue.”
Charles Osgood, host of CBS News Sunday Morning, however, told the Register that he thought the report was “scary.” He said that in his view the report resembled eugenic theories.
Such theories, which at times devalue human beings based on racial or other genetic characteristics, were once strongly identified with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
“It's a sort of dangerous road to start going down,” Osgood said, “to identify a group that is likely to contain a lot of criminals and to suggest that because many were aborted there is now less crime. I think it's racist, genocidal and bad science.”
Though he said the authors of the report don't want their study to be seen as promoting abortion, there are too many other factors involved in the lower crime rates to justify their focusing in on abortion.
“One factor is the economy,” Osgood said. “When prosperity goes up, crime goes down. Another is government programs, which seek to reduce crime. Yes, it's true that some are born poor and are more likely to become criminals, but the answer is not to abort these pregnancies, but to present poor people with more opportunities.”
Joe Scheidler, who heads the Pro-Life Action League, agreed with Osgood.
“This is eugenics,” Scheidler told the Register. “It says that if you're a minority and young, you're going to have trash, so kill it.” Scheidler said the report should be welcome news to pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, which, he said, was founded on the principles of eugenics.
“They know that minorities comprise the highest number of abortions by percentage,” Scheidler said. “Margaret Sanger [the founder of Planned Parenthood] thought minorities were scum. She was very upfront about this when she referred to abortion as ‘eliminating the human weeds.’”
Scheidler said that there were very few crimes by Jewish boys in the 1940s as a result of Nazi efforts to eliminate Jews a decade earlier, but that it would be “diabolical” to view this as a social benefit.
“The fact is that a growing majority of people, especially women, are coming to view abortion as bad,” he continued. “Planned Parenthood knows this and is trying to show people that abortion has some good effects, and that it's gonna get better,” he said.
Roger Rathman, vice president of media relations for Planned Parenthood, refuted Scheidler's claim, saying it “could not be further from the truth.” Planned Parenthood's goal, he said, “is what it has always been, to see that every child in America is a wanted child.”
Rathman added that Planned Parenthood had no comment to make on the crime report since it had not yet seen it.
Statistics obtained from Planned Parenthood's research arm, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, show that abortion is far more common among blacks than whites. In 1995, for example, there were 409 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies among minority women, compared with 210 abortions among whites.
Susan Tew, deputy communications director for the Guttmacher Institute, said it was “extremely premature” to comment on the crime study until it had undergone peer analysis. She confirmed, however, that many of the data contained in the study came from Guttmacher studies.
Dolores Bernadette Grier is vice chancellor for community relations in the Archdiocese of New York. Grier, who is black, takes a different tack than Scheidler on the question of eugenics.
“As for singling out minorities, I used to think that was the case because the majority of Planned Parenthood's clinics are in minority neighborhoods,” she said. “But the bottom line is that abortion is a big business. And what do you do in a business? You try to sell your product to the most vulnerable. These medical hit men can make a million dollars a year performing abortions. Planned Parenthood has no feeling for the babies, their concern is the money and they don't care who they kill to get it.”
Grier recounted a visit she once made to a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York City, claiming to show an interest in their literature. “I went in and saw all of these couples on the first floor—black and white,” she said. “But when they took me upstairs to get the materials I felt like I was in the corporate offices of IBM. There were plants and white businessmen in three-piece suits.—The point is that this is big business.”
A 1987 Church document, Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life), from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warned specifically about the link between abortion and eugenics.
”The abortion mentality…thus leads, whether one wants it or not, to man's domination over the life and death of his fellow human beings and can lead to a system of radical eugenics.”
A Different Theory
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said, “Abortion and crime are indeed linked, but not in the way that the pro-choice people would like them to be.—t is necessary for us to give serious consideration to the psychological dynamics that have been unleashed by the abortion culture.”
Father Pavone said that many children born after the Roe decision are strongly affected by the realization that they were viewed as a mere choice by their parents.
“Nobody who is really serious about ending violence in our society can afford to leave any stone unturned in that effort [to end abortion],” he said. “Those who can least afford it, of course, are the children themselves.”