The Link Between Abortion and Crime

  Does abortion reduce the crime rate? That's the question Americans have been asking this week as we've read news reports of a new study linking the drop in youth crime to the legalization of abortion a generation ago. Pro-life groups immediately attacked the study as badly flawed. But the real question is not whether the study is true. The question is, do we attack the roots of crime—or do we attack unborn babies? The study is called "Legalized Abortion and Crime," and it was authored by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Stanford law professor John Donohue. The study notes, for example, that in the five states that legalized abortion ahead of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, crime started falling slightly earlier than in other parts of the country. And the study found that states that had especially high rates of abortion in the first years after Roe tended to experience especially large recent declines in crime, even when other factors were considered. The authors attribute this drop in crime to the fact that in the years after abortion was legalized, the majority of women seeking abortions were poor, young, unmarried, and minority. Well, Christians shouldn't be surprised that a drop in the number of children born to single and underclass women might reduce crime. We know that a high proportion of the young men who commit the most serious crimes are born to the kind of mothers Donohue and Levitt said were having abortions in the 1970s. The question is, what do we do with this information? Well, first, we ought to be aware of how studies like these can lead to unspeakable evil. For example, in the 1920s, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger called for the elimination through sterilization of what she called "inferior races" and "morons, misfits, and the maladjusted." Sanger blamed them for most of the crime in society. Hitler's death camps for "inferior races" revealed where eugenics leads. Yet today eugenics is returning in new forms. For example, when testing reveals a Down's syndrome baby, doctors often pressure parents to abort. Not surprisingly, 8 out of 10 do. In one study, a third of the mothers said they felt "more or less forced" to abort. And now, subtly and quietly, this study tries to plant in the public mind the idea that abortion is a social good—that it stops future crime. It's the Third Reich all over again. Well, we ought to be reminding folks of the great forgotten story of Planned Parenthood: that it was started for the horrendous purpose of getting rid of the "unfit" and producing a better class of people. The abortion lobby does not want to admit this—and that's why it's been so quiet about this study. But you and I should press the point home. As Christians, we need to demonstrate that there's a much better way to combat social ills than imitating Adolf Hitler. Instead of building abortion clinics in poor neighborhoods, as Planned Parenthood does, we ought to intervene in the lives of desperate women and their children. We should support programs like Angel Tree, which brings the love of Christ to the crime-prone children of prisoners. We ought to support Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and imitate people like the Reverend Eugene Rivers in Boston and criminologist John DiIulio in Philadelphia, who are leading efforts to help at-risk kids finish high school and find jobs. In the process, we'll demonstrate that the answer to crime is not killing more babies, but bringing the love of Christ to those in need.


Chuck Colson



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