Some Economic Consequences of Abortion

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Once it is understood what abortion really is, the deliberate killing of an unborn child in its mother’s womb, arguments supporting abortion cannot be taken seriously. In discussions with “pro-choice” advocates, the pro-lifer has to refrain from slapping his forehead in exasperation at the flimsy excuses given to justify feticide. A common defense of abortion was popularized by the book Freakonomics, in which economic research seemingly shows a negative relationship between abortion rates post-Roe v. Wade and crime rates.[1] The pro-lifer (after pondering why the murder of babies is left out of these crime statistics) wonders why the pro-choice advocate is content in killing a large population in order to eliminate a small fraction who only hypothetically may commit future crimes.

Virtually the same bewildered response is felt when pro-lifers are asked for reasons why abortion is wrong other than that it, again, is the deliberate killing of an unborn child. But our society does not yet seem swayed by this singular argument, and so pro-lifers feel obliged to reveal other ills associated with this most frequently-performed procedure. One can argue that legal abortion leads to a general coarsening of morality, encourages sexual irresponsibility toward and abuse of women, and increases marital infidelity and divorce, among many other social, physical, and psychological problems.

Besides these, there are a host of economic and political ramifications due to the population and workforce decline associated with abortion. Freakonomics claims that abortion led to fewer criminals, but it also leads to fewer workers. A simple glance at both crime and labor force statistics would show that the former number is a small fraction of the latter. A mainstay of economic theory is that population growth results in economic growth through an increased workforce, increased investment, an increase in specialization and the division of labor, all resulting in increased consumption and a better standard of living. Despite the grim predictions of overpopulation enthusiasts, the simultaneous explosion of population and economic growth since the Industrial Revolution was expected. People have not just mouths that consume but brains that think and hands that work. People are The Ultimate Resource.[2] Venezuela and Zimbabwe have very low populations compared to their land size, but are not rich as a consequence. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is densely populated with over 7 million people on about 407 square miles, but has a standard of living that dwarfs Venezuela’s and Zimbabwe’s. Reducing population, whether via abortion or choosing smaller families, is not associated with long-term economic growth.

Certainly, “pro-choice” advocates, upon hearing this argument, will counter that the abortion industry does have economic benefits such as increased employment among medical workers and reduced financial hardships on the parents pursuing abortion. But then the standard economic rejoinder, “Compared to what?,” becomes relevant. It is not as if the employees of the nation’s almost 1,800 abortion facilities would otherwise be unemployed were abortion to become illegal. Further, though the parents may compare the $500 abortion fee to the thousands of dollars associated with raising children to maturity as an argument for abortion, we again need to compare the future loss of income and productivity of these aborted workers after they would have grown out of childhood. It may take thousands of dollars to raise a child, but that same child will almost definitely generate much more than that in future income/productivity over her lifetime.

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An associated problem of abortion is the reduction in taxpayers. The 2011 Social Security Trustee Report states “Through the mid-2030s, due to the large baby-boom generation entering retirement and lower-birth-rate generations entering employment, population aging is the largest single factor contributing to cost growth.” The problem is clear: in 1945 there were almost 42 workers for every Social Security recipient, but now one recipient is funded by only three workers. Of course, post-boomer generations have fewer births, and thus have to support more retirees, because so many of them are aborted (about 52 million in the US since Roe v. Wade). Compare this with the fact that in 2010 there were about 157 million workers paying to support 53 million Social Security recipients. Abortion, through the elimination of tens of millions of potential workers and taxpayers, has undeniably increased the financial strain on these federally-funded social assistance programs.

Even if these economic facts were reversed, however, the morality of abortion would be unchanged. If abortion unambiguously led to less crime, greater economic growth, an increased autonomy and respect for women by men, etc., it is still the deliberate murder of an innocent unborn child. While we can point out secondary and tertiary economic, societal, or political problems associated with legal abortion in America, the primary moral problem remains and is sufficient itself to render abortion as always gravely wrong.

[1] Numerous studies since have demonstrated flaws in this research.