Is Reduced Crime Due To Abortion Legalization?

In this month’s issue of Scientific American, there is an article about a controversial paper by Steven D. Levitt of the University of Chicago and John J. Donohue III, of Yale University, titled Legalized Abortion and Crime.

According to the article, “[The]legalization of abortion in 1973 reduced the number of unwanted children–that is, children more likely to become criminals. In 1992, the first year crime began to fall, the first set of children born after 1973 turned 18. Because most crimes are committed by young adult males between the ages of 18 and 24, Levitt and Donohue argue that the absence of millions of unwanted children led to fewer crimes being done by that age group. In total, the researchers maintain, the advent of legal abortion may be responsible for up to 50 percent of the drop in crime.”

Do you buy into this?


“It is lucky for rulers that men do not think.” — Adolf Hitler

Stoidela started a thread on this a couple months ago.

http://www.straightdope.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000250.html

Then why do the newspapers all claim that crime has been steadily increasing?

tracer asks:

> Then why do the newspapers all claim that
> crime has been steadily increasing?

Which article in which newspaper claimed that crime is increasing? Please give a citation for this. All the articles that I have been reading say that crime has been decreasing in all categories since 1991. Within the last 20 years, the general trend has been that there was a peak in crime in 1980. Crime decreased from then to 1985 and went up again until 1991. It’s been down since then and is now at its lowest point in 20 years (and in 30 years in some categories).

Any newspaper article saying otherwise is splitting up crimes in small categories and is looking just at local regions or narrow age groups, etc. If you look at just a single category, a small enough region, or a single age group, you can find combinations of regions and crimes where, just at random, crime has increased in some years.

I am not qualified to pass judgement on the scientific merits of the published paper. It may or may not be true that increased abortion has a causal effect on crime rates.

To me what is more troubling are the possible implications of such a suggested causal relationship. If true, then why keep abortion “safe, legal, and rare?” Why not make it safe, legal, and plentiful in order to get rid of all those potential criminals? Society would benefit explicitly from the elimination of the unborn.

This, in addition to potential stereotyping of fetuses (as a group) convicted in the mind of society of being criminals before they are even born. And who gets to decide which ones may grow into productive members of society (the rich? the white?), and which ones are likely to be social deviants (the poor or minority)? Dangers lurking here.

I do not think these attitudes have come into mainstream thought (yet), and I’m not suggesting that any official U.S. policy would follow (but what about other, less-enlightened regimes?). Thinking of this “Brave New World” troubles me greatly.

Actually Libby, it depends on what you call crime. Abortion was supposed to stop child abuse because people would then have kids that they wanted, turns out child abuse sky rocketed because people looked a children as being as diposable an old kleenex. Scientific American is one of the most liberal pieces of trash in print. What really galls me is that they are supposed to be a SCIENCE magazine, but all I ever get out of them is political agendas. Then again, science knows which side of the bread has the butter, maybe they are smart enough to figure out that if they stop looking for the cure for aids and the “homo” gene their funding will dry up. Tsk tsk, tis a pity.


For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

Damn, Phaedrus. Way to confuse a poor girl. First, you shorten Libertarian into my name, making me wonder if I’d gotten drunk, posted, and then blacked out the whole experience.

Then you say something that makes me think that you think we shouldn’t be looking for a vaccine for AIDS. That wasn’t what you meant, right?

No Libby, I wasn’t suggesting that we don’t look for an aids cure, I just think there are more important things that science could research that aren’t so politically driven. Read money driven if you like. I am a cancer survivor and my mother died of it, still I would rather see a shuttle to Mars than look for a cure that might NEVER be found. Just my opinion. :wink:


For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

I have a nominee for whom we should send on a highly risky one-way trip to Mars…

Somewhat related, there was talk a few years back of sterilizing single welfare moms who had more than 2 children.

Alas, it was too “racist”

Thanks, Phaelanx. You just sent my already high opinion of Scientific American sky high.


“It is lucky for rulers that men do not think.” — Adolf Hitler

Wendell Wagner wrote:

It was a Wall Street Journal article from the middle of this decade. Damned if I can find it now. In any event, the impression I always get from newspapers and TV news is that criminals are running rampant in the streets gunning people down left and right – probably because that angle is sure to grab more readers/viewers than a “crime is down” yawnfest.

Has child abuse really skyrocketed, or has the reporting of it increased?

Can anyone look up some current statistics on the rate of child abuse? I can’t find anything on the web more recent than the early nineties. It pretty much agrees with other crime statistics in the late eighties and the early nineties - a big increase in the late eighties which flattens out in the early nineties. I would like to know the real statistics in the late nineties. Did it decrease like other crimes have since about 1991? Please, no guesses or vague memories of sensationalistic newspaper stories. Most newspaper stories that aren’t tied to accurate (and general, rather than about small regions) statistics make wild claims about crime statistics because that sells more papers.

Off of the crime/abortion topic, but back to the AIDS reseach diversion: The research into this disease has benifitted us all in the last decade + by uncovering the intricacies of the mechanism of the immune system. It’s invaluable research, regardless of your political bias.

You sure the first letter of your username wouldn’t be better off as an “a”, ellele? :slight_smile: