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Fetal Profiling By: Chris Weinkopf
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 13, 1999


THE NAACP BLAMES gun manufacturers for inner-city violence and condemns the TV networks for a dearth of black sitcom stars. Amidst these angry denunciations, however, comes few complaints about a study that credits high abortion rates among poor, black, and Hispanic Americans for the recent drop in crime.

Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, which routinely attacks corporations for hiring too few minorities, seems similarly nonplused about the suggestion. A spokesman high-mindedly answered that he wants to "see the study," which has been summarized in the Chicago Tribune but is not yet published, before commenting on its conclusion—that aborting indigent and minority babies makes the world a safer place. Representatives at the Congressional Black Caucus and the American Civil Liberties Union have yet to utter a peep, or return this writer’s phone calls.

The report, "Legalized Abortion and Crime," by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Stanford sociologist John Donohue III, notes that nationwide, the number of abortions skyrocketed after the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Crime, on the other hand, began to taper off eighteen years later, in 1991, when the first aborted babies would have entered the most crime-prone age group. Where there were many abortions, police reported fewer robberies, rapes, and murders two decades later. From that correlation, the scholars infer causality. They reason that since an inordinate number of abortion-obtaining mothers are unwed, poor, or ethnic minorities, their children, if born, are more likely to become violent criminals. The logic is dubious; the implications are downright frightening.

It’s true that members of disadvantaged groups are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the nation’s crime. But that’s no justification for assuming the guilt of never-born individuals for crimes they never had a chance to commit. When police officers pull over black motorists without good reason, civil-rights activists loudly complain of "racial profiling." Why they permit such bias from academics is a mystery, unless they are willing to overlook prejudice for the sake of abortion—just as feminists were willing to overlook sexual harassment and rape for the sake of Bill Clinton.

The study’s authors, and those who have embraced its findings, insist that they do not endorse the idea of abortion as crime control, but their words speak louder than their denials. Cory Richards, vice president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, tells the Tribune that the study "is not an argument for abortion per se. [It] is an argument for women not being forced to have children that they don’t want to have."

But were "choice" all that is at stake, there would be no need to talk about national crime statistics. Implicit in the study is the suggestion that the country is better off for having permitted some 34 million abortions of demographically undesirable people. As Richard Posner, chief judge of the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, claims, "unwanted children are quite likely not to turn out to be the best citizens." Or, as one of the study’s authors puts it, "Abortion provides a way for the would-be mothers of those kids who are going to lead really rough lives to avoid bringing them into the world." That sounds a lot like an argument for abortion.

What became of "unwanted" children before Roe v. Wade? Why was crime low in the 1950s, decades before the Supreme Court made abortion the law of the land? 1991, the eighteenth anniversary of Roe, may have accompanied a drop in crime, but the ruling itself was concurrent with a high national rate. Maybe it’s no coincidence that when the government defined human life as disposable, people increasingly behaved that way. Moreover, when childbirth became a woman’s choice, it ceased to be a man’s responsibility. Abortion helped usher in the era of fatherlessness, and fatherlessness, by all counts, begets crime.

There are too many other factors—the rise and fall of the welfare culture, the burgeoning prison population, stricter methods of law enforcement—to determine conclusively why crime went up in the 1970s and down in the 1990s. Abortion probably has removed some sinners from the nation’s ranks; it has surely taken some saints, too. That’s all a matter of speculation, because 34 million Americans were deemed "unwanted" well before their time.

"This idea of culling before birth," a Planned Parenthood spokesperson candidly confessed, "seems a little creepy." It’s strange to hear an abortion proponent admit as much, while activists who claim to fight for the civil rights of minorities remain silent. The "unwanted" designation says more about those who apply it than those who are so defined. That America has dealt with 34 million lives so brutally is itself a crime—one that Professors Levitt and Donohue neglected to include in their tally.


Chris Weinkopf is an editorial writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. To read his weekly Daily News column, click here. E-mail him at chris.weinkopf@dailynews.com.


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