Eugenics by Any Other Name

Even if you think abortion is immoral, you should take comfort in knowing that Roe v Wade helped reduce crime. At least that's what a pair of social scientists is telling us in their study just published in Harvard's Quarterly Journal of Economics. The authors claim not to take sides in the abortion debate, but they maintain that legal abortion accounts for as much as half of the recent drop in the crime rate. Pro-life groups challenge the study's credibility. But the real question is not accuracy: It's whether we deal with crime by attacking its roots, or by attacking unborn children instead. The study, "Legalized Abortion and Crime," notes that in five states that legalized abortion before the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade case, crime started falling slightly earlier than in other parts of the country. The study found that states with especially high rates of abortion before Roe have experienced large declines in crime recently, even after considering other factors. The authors attribute this to the fact that the majority of women seeking abortions are poor, young, unmarried, and minority. Well, no one should be surprised that a drop in the number of children born to single and poor 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 who were having abortions in the 1970s. The question is, what do we do with this information? First, we ought to be aware that studies like these can condone unspeakable evil. Take the case of eugenics. For example, in the 1920s, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger called for the elimination of what she called "inferior races" and "morons, misfits, and the maladjusted." Sanger blamed them for most crime. Hitler's death camps for "inferior races" showed us where such thinking can lead. But eugenics is still with us. When tests reveal a Down syndrome baby, for example, doctors often pressure the parents to abort. And sadly, eight out of ten do. This most recent study plants in the public mind the idea that abortion is a social good that stops future crime. There's no doubt that among the forty million American children killed by abortion, some potential criminals lost their lives. But none were certain to become criminals -- whatever their social circumstances. Social scientists would love for us to believe that they can predict behavior with certainty. But the same ghettos that produce the criminals these scientists decry also gave us musical geniuses like the jazz great, Louis Armstrong, and the brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins. And as Christians we know that no life can be sacrificed for any supposed social good. No life is worthless; no life is irredeemable. I have learned that and seen it many times over in twenty-five years of prison ministry. There's a better way to combat social ills than imitating Hitler's death camps. Instead of building abortion clinics in poor neighborhoods, we ought to be supporting desperate women and their children with Crisis Pregnancy Centers and programs like Angel Tree, which bring hope to the crime-prone children of prisoners. In the process, we'll demonstrate that the answer to crime is not killing more babies, but bringing Christ's love to those in need. For further reference: "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime." Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2001.


Chuck Colson



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