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The Roe Effect

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Wall Street Street Editor James Taranto over the past couple of years have penned an interesting theory that the political effect of Roe v Wade has been to reduce the number of liberal voters and will continue to have a profound effect upon politics in the upcoming decades.

Here some thoughts that support the contention. President Bush carried 97 of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties; many of whom are in subdivisions at the peripheral of major cities. This has helped in solidifying Republican hold in the “red states” while giving Republicans some foothold in so-called “blue states”, in particular the Midwest.

In the more liberal states that favored John Kerry, fertility rates are 12% lower than in those states that voted for George Bush. In 2000, the results were similar. States that favored Bush, the average woman produced 2.11 children; which is above what is considered replacement levels. The states that went for Gore, the number was 1.89, which is below replacement levels. After the 2000 census, Southern and Western states saw an increase in congressional representatives and this occurred at the expense of the more liberal Northeast. If present trends continue to hold, the Red States will continue grow in population and in political importance at the expense of the Blue States.

James Taranto concluded, “ Not all women, after all, are equally likely to have abortions. It’s almost a truism that women who have abortions are more pro-choice than those who carry their pregnancies to term, and it stands to reason that they generally have more-liberal attitudes about sex and religion. It also seems reasonable to assume that parents have some influence on their children, so that if liberal women are having abortions, the next generation will be more conservative than it otherwise would be.” The one direct effect of legalized abortions is that fewer liberal voters are being born.

Another aspect of this decision is the effect it is having upon African-Americans. 1 out of every 3 abortions are African-Americans and Africans-Americans are three times more likely to abort their unborn children. The first effect is obvious. Since African-Americans vote nearly 90% for Democratic candidates, this has reduced the number of Democratic voters. The second is just as obvious. Liberals have unwittingly designed a birth control program that is mildly eugenic since it effects minorities more than Whites.

In the early 90’s, I was involved in a debate over a pro-life declaration among United Methodist. The Durham Declaration, as it was called, presented a Christian case against the liberalized abortions laws then and now in effect. The Declaration was signed by variety of Church members that ranged from liberal theologians to the more conservative evangelicals. The declaration engineered widespread criticisms from many pro-choice Methodist. What I found fascinating was the response of one leading critic, Professor John Swomley. Professor Swomley had been a leading advocate of the pro-choice movement within the Church and a advocate of population control in general.

Professor Swomley, a long time leftist and critic, had written much on the need for population control in the third world as a needed panacea for economic growth. Swomley’s thesis was simple- reduce the number of children born in “over populated” country and present resources can be better spread among the rest. My own observation then as now, was that Professor Swomley’s policies was specifically designed to reduce the number of babies born to parents of Africans, Hispanic and Asian descents. Since birth rates among developed White dominated population had already reached population stabilization and was even headed down below replacement levels, much of the population control efforts were and still is being conducted in developing nations.

It is ironic that the mostly “progressive policy” of liberalized abortions may be having a mildly eugenic effect upon both minorities and liberal voters. Taranto’s thesis is that as long as abortions remains legal, then conservative voters will continue to grow at a larger number. The catch is that it is conservative voters are more likely to oppose liberalized abortion laws despite the fact that it works against their political interest whereas liberal voters are likely to support policies that reduces their voter pool.

I do not suggest that Pro-choice advocates are engaged in a purposeful eugenic policy. They are not. What I am suggesting is that liberal supporters of Roe have supported a policy that is reducing their voter base.

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About Tom Donelson

  • bhw

    How did this Taranto get to write for the WSJ?

    I don’t think that abortion is the thing that is — if it is in the first place — reducing the Democratic voter base. I would think reproductive choice overall is the thing. What I mean to say is that I don’t think most women are using abortion as a means to control the total number of children they have [“I’ve got 3, so I don’t want this 4th one”]. They’re using it to end unwanted pregnancies at that particular time, and only some of those are unwanted because they’d put the family size over the edge. Someone might have had an abortion when she was in her 20s without necessarily reducing the total number of children she eventually had. Either way you slice it, she may have only wanted two and stopped having them after having two.

    So the total number of children women have has more to do with … how many children they actually want to have. Most people control that with contraception, not abortion. Or some control it with the biological clock: they start their families later, so they ultimately have fewer children. There are about 1 million abortions/year in the US. You can’t count how many unwanted pregnancies were prevented by birth control or life circumstances, but my guess is that the number is far more than a million/year.

    So I think it would be more accurate to simply say that — again, if it’s true — Democratic women are more likely to have smaller families and thereby will decrease the ratio of Democratic voters to Republican voters.

    Of course, all of this assumes that one’s parents political outlook determines one’s own political outlook, and that ain’t necessarily so, either.

    And abortion as a tool for population control is a horrific idea. Abortion is a private matter, not a population matter.

  • RJ

    “1 out of every 3 abortions are African-Americans and Africans-Americans are three times more likely to abort their unborn children.”

    May I have a cite? Not that I don’t believe you, but it is always nice to have a look-see at the hard data…

  • bhw

    Where’s that article Eric posted recently? He linked to the whole abortion data enchilada.

  • Eric Olsen

    I heard my name being called – here’s the abortion data post

  • bhw

    Here ’tis:

    The abortion ratio for black women (491 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (165 per 1,000), and the ratio for women of the nonhomogenous “other” race category (376 per 1,000) was 2.3 times the ratio for white women. The abortion rate for black women (29 per 1,000 women) was 3.0 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000) whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (21 per 1,000 women) was 2.1 times the rate for white women.

    HOWever, saying that the abortion rate and ratio of black women was 3.0 times the rate/ratio for white women does not mean that black women are 3 times as likely to get an abortion as white women! That’s like saying black men are 3 times as likely to commit a crime as white men, and that’s what leads to racial profiling and the allged crime of, say, driving while black. There is no race-related propensity for getting an abortion or for committing crime.

    All you can say is that the rate/ratio has been higher for black women than white women. You can’t say anything about what will happen in the future.

    Plus, the numbers aren’t telling the whole story:

    Despite efforts to collect and provide a cross-classification of race and ethnicity for this report in compliance with OMB Directive 15, which specifies federal standards for the collection of data on race and ethnicity (56), only 28 states (accounting for 39% of the total number of reported abortions) were able to provide adequate data for use of the recommended race categories.

  • bhw

    Thanks, Eric!

  • There are two things the theory does not consider:

    1) A woman might have an abortion, but does she remain childless for the rest of her life? At some point, she most likely will have children, and since she utilized ‘choice’ earlier in her life, she will most likely pass on her belief to her children. What would be more interesting is statistics that show how many women who have had abortions, remain prochoice years later. This theory is going on the assumption that a woman who had an abortion will never have children. Isn’t that flawed at the onset?

    2) The analysis that says red states are having more children than blue states (2.11 vs 1.89) does not cover the immigration factor. The blue states, at least here in the west, are not ‘shrinking’ in population at all. And we all know which party is more helpful to immigrants.

  • Taranto has actually explored a lot of these objections over the years at his site, and has answers.

    I don’t quite buy his theory overall, but it isn’t half-thought out silliness. It’s at least thoroughly-considered silliness. 🙂

  • bhw

    Yah, the cited WSJ article seems like typical twisting of the data to fit a pre-conceived vision of the world, rather than an attempt to analyze the data objectively.

  • Tom Donelson

    Thanks for those who have responded. A couple of quick points. First, Since the Roe Decision has been handed down, there have been between 42 and 45 million abortions. Around 15 million of those would have been of voting age starting in 1992. Considering that as BHW has confirmed, that nearly a third of those aborted have been African-Americans and ethnic minorities in general have higher abortion rates, there should be no doubt that James Taranto is on to something.

    Since 1992, African Americans have voted between 85 and 90 percent for Democratic candidate. With 5 million less African-American voters available in 2004, you can do the math about the impact on this election. Add in other minorities, you get the picture that abortion does play a role in reducing the Democratic voting bloc. How much is left for debate. These are considerable numbers. You can easily make the case that we should be sitting in the second administration of the Gore Presidency.

    To BHW first point that abortion is “horrific” form of population control is correct but it is a method of population control. If you prevent birth, you are engaged in population control.

    Now here is an interesting question that we might want to take up in further debate. Does it bother anyone that the pro-choice movement has encouraged a policy that directly affect more minorities than whites when it comes to reducing population?

  • Tom, I think the point made here is that there are not necessarily 5 million fewer African-American voters than there would have been without abortion.

    Imagine, if you will, that young woman A is planning to have three kids. At some young age, she becomes pregnant, despite whatever precautions she has taken. She aborts, not because she doesn’t want to have a child, but because she doesn’t want to have it now. She later goes on to have three kids.

    By Taranto’s math, that’s one less voter. But in reality, had the first abortion not happened, the last birth wouldn’t have either.

    I do think he’s onto something, but I don’t think it is as easily stated as you’ve made it. As someone suggested above, there are different attitudes about children in different areas, but abortion is not the sole factor, and may not even be the biggest one.

  • bhw

    If you prevent birth, you are engaged in population control.

    Just as if you prevent birth by contraception. There’s no difference, except that the number of abortions can be counted and the number of prevented pregnancies can’t. To single out abortion as a reason for declining birthrates is simply to ignore other factors, such as the fact that American women in general are having fewer children overall — some by choice and others by circumstance — and the vast majority of those women never have an abortion.

    I see abortion as part of the overall reproductive choices women are making. Yes, without those abortions, those particular women would have given birth. But who’s to say that they would have had MORE children overall if they never had an abortion? You can’t just add the number of aborted fetuses to the existing population, saying that there would be X number more children on the planet. It might be a zero sum game if women who plan to have only two children have an abortion and then go on to have two children, for example. You have no way of knowing whether or not abortion reduces population in any significant way.

    Does it bother anyone that the pro-choice movement has encouraged a policy that directly affect more minorities than whites when it comes to reducing population?

    A) It hasn’t necessarily reduced population. See above.
    B) It hasn’t “affected” anyone, in the passive sense. That’s why the word “choice” is in there — it’s an active decision. The key is to ask if the minority women are getting abortions because they feel that they can’t support a family on their own — I think something like 88% of black women said they were single when they had their abortions. So the question might not be about abortion, but about contraception, opportunities for financial independence, social services, and parental responsibility.

  • Does it bother anyone that the pro-choice movement has encouraged a policy that directly affect more minorities than whites when it comes to reducing population?

    My thoughts are this:

    First, the African American population is still increasing at a faster rate than the Caucasian population, according to census statistics. source

    Second, I remember reading somewhere that the majority of Americans want abortion only in instances where the health of the woman is in jeopardy or in cases of rape, incest, etc. Yet of those 40+million instances of abortion you list, it’s pretty clear that most of those are not situations where the health of the woman is a factor. With medical technology today, it’s not that difficult to bear a child. Rape and incest is not that prevalent either. What the report went on to say is that most women do get abortions for lifestyle factors (can’t afford the child, don’t want to be a single parent, etc.), so while America frowns on those reasons for abortion, those reasons are the primary reasons they have abortions. Sort of an unspoken acceptance.

    Considering the fact that most abortions occur due to lifestyle choices, I don’t know how we can surmise that most of those aborted fetuses would grow up to become registered voters. Given the fact that many of them would grow up in poverty, it’s impossible to determine how many of those aborted fetuses would have grown up to live on the streets or turn to crime, etc. (regardless of race).

    The summary of my thought would be that, rather than focus on the fact that abortion more directly affects a minority population, we should still keep a woman’s right to control her own body and work on the factors that lead a minority population to have a greater need for abortion. (i.e. discrimination and prejudice that keep minorities in poverty)

    Work on the cause of the greater problem, not on the band-aid that’s in place to attempt to fix it.

  • bhw

    I swear to god, I think this is the first time I’ve heard a conservative complain that there are too few black children being born into fatherless homes, and therefore, often into poverty. Usually, it’s the rant about those irresponsble minority women having more and more kids just to get the welfare check.

    Which one is it?

  • JR

    Does it bother anyone that the pro-choice movement has encouraged a policy that directly affect more minorities than whites when it comes to reducing population?

    Which implies that the anti-abortion movement is promoting a policy that would directly affect more minorities than whites when it comes to reducing rights.

  • Tom Donelson

    Quick points:

    First, If you had read conservative and free market literature on welfare reform, you will know that the two biggest criticism was that the welfare system may have encouraged less marriage and reduce the incentative for welfare receiptants to leave welfare. On the latter point, those critics have been proven correct since welfare rolls have fallen since the bipartisan welfare reform act was passed.

    The second point is that Steve is right, let discuss policies that help minorities. Like reduce taxes, stable monetary policy, and innovation that will create opportunities. Since 1980, minorities have seen a rise in income over the past 25 years, and I will add that other minority groups have risen from the bottom into the mainstream. Growing economies can provide the mobility needed.

    Finally, there has been once consistent aspect of the pro-life movement. That is that they do care if a child is aborted or not for they believe that child inside the mother’s worm is more than just a lifestyle. And I have seen as well as written about many various charities done by these groups that have aided single moms. There are literally thousands of these organizations in existence, they just not funded by government. So they are invisible.

    To the final point, that “anti-abortion” movement is reducing rights. Whose rights are being reduced? The right of the unborn to be born? This right argument by JR is tricky since it could be argued that abortion is killing of life. So that is a tricky question and what makes the abortion so different from others as well as gutwrenching. If you believe the unborn child is a unborn child, you will think differently on the issues of whose rights are being violated than if you not as convinced that it is a child in the womb.

  • RJ

    Apparently, black women are vastly more likely that white women to have abortions. Despite this, black women have more children per capita than white women. And their children are about 70% illegitimate, compared to about 30% for whites.

    My head hurts… :-/

  • And I have seen as well as written about many various charities done by these groups that have aided single moms. There are literally thousands of these organizations in existence, they just not funded by government. So they are invisible.

    My first thought there is that perhaps then they need to adopt the marketing strategy of the Republican party. I’m all for charities helping single pregnant women, if they cannot make their voice heard, then they should adopt the marketing strategy of the neo-con minority who has convinced America that they are a monolithic group who speaks for the majority. I’m also a big proponent of resolving the deadbeat dad issue, much more effectively than we are today. I have yet to see a pro-life organization address that issue with any seriousness.

    In terms of when a fetus becomes a legitimate human with rights, yes, that is still open for debate. My own personal decision in the factor is that it becomes a human when it is capable of living outside the womb. Isn’t that around the 7th month? We can include incubation, medical assistance, but as long as the fetus cannot survive outside the womb, then to me it is still a fetus. That is my own personal ideology, we all have to arrive at our own decision somehow. I also believe that after that point is reached, and if the fetus is still in the womb, then the decision to abort or not is still between the woman, her doctor and her God, and it is not my place to attempt to intervene. I have no idea how many abortions take place after the 7th or 8th month of pregnancy anyway.

  • bhw

    Of all abortions for which gestational age was reported, 59% were performed at <8 weeks' gestation and 88% at <13 weeks.

    From 1992 (when detailed data regarding early abortions were first collected) through 2001, steady increases have occurred in the percentage of abortions performed at <6 weeks' gestation.

    A limited number of abortions were obtained at >15 weeks’ gestation [4-ish months], including 4.3% at 16–20 weeks and 1.4% at >21 weeks [6+ months].

    If you crunch the numbers, I think there were about 11,000 abortions performed after 21 weeks/6 months.

  • I have no idea when a fetus becomes able to live outside the womb, I am assuming it is around 7 months. Even so, I still believe it is between a woman, her doctor and her God.

    Having just been decriminalized myself in the last few years by the SCOTUS for what I do with my own body, I am always and forever against legislation dictating what we do with our own physical self. There are too many horrific negative side effects of such rulings, that the majority cannot even begin to comprehend.

    It is not my place to tell another person what they can and cannot do with their own body.

  • JR

    This right argument by JR is tricky since it could be argued that abortion is killing of life. So that is a tricky question and what makes the abortion so different from others as well as gutwrenching.

    What makes the question so gutwrenching is pathological anthropomorphism. Think clearly enough about what a fetus is really capable of and you would have far more reservations about eating meat than about aborting unwanted pregnancies.

  • RJ

    “Think clearly enough about what a fetus is really capable of”

    Uh, okay: A fetus is “capable” of becoming a human being in a few months, as long as “mom” does abort “it”…

  • Eric Olsen

    for me, the “conservative” stance here is in favor of self-determination for women over their own bodies until the point – viability – when the rights of the other individual involved equals and then supplants that of the woman. How can it be the right of the government to tell her otherwise?

    That doesn’t mean abortion is necessarily “moral” or without grave consequence or that the non-illegality of it should be construed as some kind of societal encouragement, but it means that individuals have rights the government shouldn’t interfere with until competing rights – which I would again assert is viability – supercede those of bodily privacy and self-determination.

    Using similar logic, I don’t think drug use should be illegal (again, with some limitations and restrictions) either.

  • Eric – then the quesiton is, when does a fetus become viable? I say, when it can sustain life outside the womb. I think it’s like the question I asked a while back dealing with the Scott Peterson verdict. I guess that must be how the jury looked at it. That the baby would have been able to survive outside the womb, therefore he is counted as one of his victims!

  • Eric Olsen

    viability is a moving target that will continue to get earlier in pregnancy and further cloud the issue – certainly it is reasonable that an 8-month fetus should be considered a person for the purposes of homicide prosecution

  • JR

    Uh, okay: A fetus is “capable” of becoming a human being in a few months, as long as “mom” does abort “it”…

    And a sperm cell is capable of fertilizing an egg to become a fetus to become a human being. So?

    In fact, a fetus is “capable” of growing into a serial killer (or a dictator), who could kill women who would have been capable of producing even more human beings, etc. If you get emotionally invested in potentialities, you can’t really choose between any course of action. Which would be kinda pathological.