more abortions = less crime?!?

Was lounging in the bathtub last night reading the newest issue of Newsweek (April 30, 2001) and came across a piece that really got me thinking. Something I haven’t done in a while. Damn! It felt good…

So this piece was a rebuttle to an article that two law professors (John Donohue, Stanford; Steven Levitt, U of Chicago) had written in Harvard’s Quarterly Journal of Economics. In it, they supported and tried to prove that since the legalization of abortions started in the 1970’s, crime rates have dramatically fallen. They think there’s some sort of correlation here?!?

Roe v. Wade lead the way to legalized abortions. Since then, there have been over 27 million abortions performed in the last 18 years. Donohue and Levitt believe that “legalized abortion appears to acount for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.” Excuse me?

Homocide has gone down 40 percent. Violent Crime is down 30 percent. States with high abortion rates have had greater reductions in their crime rates. How?

“6 percent of any birth cohort commits about half of that cohort’s crimes.” Father is criminal. Father’s son commits about half of his father’s crimes. Legalized abortion ceases this crime chain by allowing the father not to have his child.

Donohue and Levitt believe that abortions and crime rates correlate between similiar social classes and living environments.
Donohue and Levitt could be viewed as racists. “Given that homocide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homocide reductions.” Why? Because there will be fewer black youths since the legalization of abortions? Or because it will take the white youths nine times longer to catch up?

I wouldn’t have a problem with these two men, had they simply stated that since the legalization of abortions in the 1970’s, a small percentage of the drop in crime rates can be attributed. I would understand a drop in the smaller, petty crimes; such as theft, breaking and entering. But homocide, rape, and other vicious violent crimes? I find it hard to find that these two subjects have much, if anything to do with each other.

Oddly enough, Donohue and Levitt are not advocating abortion. They simply believe they have found an explanation to the rise in unwanted pregnancies/abortion and a drop in crime.

Who’s to say that we, the “legalized abortion generation” aren’t incubators of a crime rate yet to rise?

2 Responses to “more abortions = less crime?!?”


  • Hmmm.

    I think my biggest problem on this whole thing is that it sets up a kind of “profiling”- that all women who get abortions are criminals or have been impregnated by criminals; or are African-American, or whathaveyou. As old O-Mers will know, I’m a flaming pro-choice democrat. But this is science, and I’m not hip on politics tainting science. One has to be soooo careful when conducting studies like this. Despite what these scientists say about not being prochoice/antichoice, it seems like there might be some subliminal messages…

    On the other hand, it may also have something to do with one’s view on genetics. I would tend to agree with you, Jess. I dont know how much faith I’d put in a report like this. I just have to think that environment plays a role in stuff like this. Not all naturally aggressive kids turn into raging rapists and murderers, should their parents realize what kind of effort raising a child correctly takes. (Insert here all people screaming at me, saying the Columbine kids parents aren’t to be blamed, that they were good parents with bad apple kids who were influenced by music and culture. I’m not into censorship in any way, shape, or form. It’s not the music. It’s the parents. Explain to your children that acting like Marilyn Manson in school isn’t necessarily appropriate as a 16 year old. Lyrics dont always equal life. And if your child is depressed, it is your damn responsibility to A) notice and B) get him/her help.)

    Where was I? Oh yeah- but, I think a lot of things are INFLUENCED by GENETICS. (not to say all things are always 100% genetic) Sexual preferences, genetic. Alcoholism, disease; etc, influenced by genetics. Who’s to say a propensity to crime isn’t “influenced” by genetics as well? But involving abortion in a topic like this is kind of asking for trouble. Less live births = less people, which in turn = less crime. That’s kind of an overall fact of the world. But I have to wonder if the choice of abortion for a woman has much to do with any of this at all.

    –e

  • I tend to believe that this is a bunch of bullshit and they are saying that this is not correlational but causal, which isn’t true. My first reaction is, well maybe women who are getting abortions are helping prevent kids who might turn into criminal adults from being born. Yes, I know, not all women having abortions are gonna produce cuckoo kids, but if they are having an abortion they think (for whatever their reason) they cannot raise the child right then. Often the best plan of action if the child is gonna be really fucked up or unwanted.

    I don’t see how this would effect crime right after abortion legalization, but would effect crime rates say 15-25 years down the road. Weird stuff, gotta say. Don’t know if it has any merit.

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