Distributed Mind

June 05, 2005

Abortions Have Continued to Decrease Under Bush

by ben

You will probably know all about this since it has been in the news, but we try to clean up after ourselves around here... Thus it is that I write this follow-up to a post I wrote in October linking to an article arguing that the abortion rate had increased under Bush. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut and reserved explicit commentary, so I don't have to retract anything - which is good since the main argument was wrong, as did indeed sound likely to me back in October as indicated by a later post. Then I doubted that the debate would ever be solved... Well, I was wrong. Factcheck.org has an article on it, citing numbers from Guttmacher, and carrying an excerpt of a letter sent to them by Stassen himself, admitting the Guttmacher numbers are better (they also have a pdf of the whole letter, in which Stassen defends some of his ideas).

(I note though that, as the factcheck.org article points out, in some states the abortion rate did indeed go up, so even though the overall national trend is down, in some areas, it did increase during certain time periods.)

Now, having said all that, I don't think that the economic arguments have been made, including those by the author of the original article, Stassen, are entirely wrong. Though... So far, fortunately, the effect has not been observed. Which may mean that in fact the arguments are completely wrong. Indeed, this is a likely explanation. It is also possible that there are other hidden effects, or that these economic variables do not have a large enough impact relative to a greater downward trend to be observable, or that the effect is delayed and we simply have not seen it yet. And in some states the rate did go up. Given that, we (okay, admittedly addressing mainly conservatives there) should be careful. Furthermore, it is not just about what we do, but how we do it. Trying to decrease abortions while making it harder for women to keep children can be silly. Obviously that can be taken too far - we shouldn't worry about coddling people, they still have responsibility regardless. And it may require tradeoffs - e.g. do we make it economically easier for the rich to keep a baby, or the poor? But it makes little sense to be at odds with our own policy - saying one thing with our mouths and another with our wallets. I guess that would be a classic definition of hypocrisy. Furthermore, we must be humane. If we are going to require something - something which it is right to require - then let's not make it excessively hard to follow. We should have some mercy for those in the plight that would lead them to choose abortion (not to say for all women there is such a "plight," but for those for whom there is...)

(I feel that I must sound like am giving people who have abortions a free pass. I don't want to do that. I am not by any means ready to throw out culpability. Nor do I want to saddle everyone with, as I said, "coddling." But we must be humane. And we also must not be hypocritical, so that even if we are arguably not inhumane let's still try to decrease abortions when we have the power to through economics. Of course, one problem is deciding how to do that - conservatives and liberals may have very different answers sometimes. In such cases... a certain amount of good faith may be requried, and we may have to "agree to disagree." And also, of course, one must admit that sometimes - though we are not there today - lowering taxes may be a moral issue. Of course, spending tax money may also be a moral issue. So, good luck, but let's at least be willing to try, eh?)

[I had heard rumblings about this elsehwere, but it was Christianity Today's weblog that I finally read that pointed me to the factcheck.org article.]

08:38:31 - Politics - ben - No comments