Saturday, April 16, 2005

Crime and Abortion

In today’s New York Times, John Tierney discusses a new theory on crime reduction that is sure to make everyone uncomfortable. According to Tierney, economist and author Steven D. Levitt has amassed a number of statistics that indicate that:

[T]he single most important cause [of crime reduction in New York City in the 1990s] was an event two decades earlier: the legalization of abortion in New York State in 1970, three years before it was legalized nationally by the Supreme Court.

The result, he maintains, was a huge reduction in the number of children who would have been at greater than average risk of becoming criminals during the 1990's. Growing up as an unwanted child is itself a risk factor, he says, and the women who had abortions were disproportionately likely to be unmarried teenagers with low incomes and poor education - factors that also increase the risk.

This is one of those ideas that churns your stomach not because it seems ridiculous but because it just might be true. But what if it is? Does it tell us anything or provide any insight?

This is one of those theories that, because it borders on shocking, appears more important than it is. Certainly no one is going to suggest using abortion among poor women as a crime-fighting technique. And no decent society should promote abortion in lieu of doing the hard work of improving the lives of the impoverished.

Ultimately, we must hope Levitt’s theory does not embolden the pro-abortion forces but instead gives us yet another reason to seriously address the desperate situation in our most impoverished communities—where many children are unwanted and grow up to be criminals while others are never even given the chance to live.


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