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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

 
Chapter 4 of the book Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, is titled "Where Have All the Criminals Gone?" The surprising answer in this fascinating book is that they never were.

From the book:
In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years-the years during which young men enter their criminal prime-the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals. And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.
The authors knew that this theory was bound to shock a lot of folks, so they did a little research to back up their claim. Five states had legalized abortion at least two years before Roe vs Wade -- New York, California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Research revealed that these states' crime rates went down earlier than in the other states.
Between 1988 and 1994, violent crime in the earlylegalizing states fell 13 percent compared to the other states; between 1994 and 1997, their murder rates fell 23 percent more than those of the other states.
Not satisfied that they had enough data to sway the skeptics, they next looked for "a correlation between each state's abortion rate and its crime rate." Well, guess what? They found it!
...the states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest crime drops in the 1990s, while states with low abortion rates experienced smaller crime drops. (This correlation exists even when controlling for a variety of factors that influence crime: a state's level of incarceration, number of police, and its economic situation.) Since 1985, states with high abortion rates have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low-abortion states.
So, it wasn't improved law enforcement, or gun control, or even a growing economy. It was the simple fact that fewer unwanted babies were being born. And it's those unfortunate unwanted babies who are more likely to grow up to pursue criminal activities.

The anti-choice group does not like to consider arguments like this. Or if they do, they raise their well-worn, rose-colored standard -- adoption! Remember, this is the answer to what to do about the 400,000 frozen embryos in this country. God forbid they should be used for life-saving research. No. Now the solution is embryo adoption. Not that there's anything wrong with couples adopting embryos. I'm all for it if that's what some couples choose. But it's ludicrous to suggest that adoption will take care of 400,000 embryos. Just about as ludicrous as thinking that adoption would save all the unwanted babies from a hellish existence and, possibly, future life of crime.

I don't know if the Freakonomics theory holds water or not. But it sure bears looking into. Especially when it's given further credence by statistical data like this:
...there was no link between a given state's abortion rate and its crime rate before the late 1980s-when the first cohort affected by legalized abortion was reaching its criminal prime-which is yet another indication that Roe v. Wade was indeed the event that tipped the crime scale.

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