Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Roe Effect, Redux

James Taranto has written again on the Roe Effect, the collision of demographics and abortion views:
The Roe effect, however, refers specifically to the nexus between the practice of abortion and the politics of abortion. It seems self-evident that pro-choice women are more likely to have abortions than pro-life ones, and common sense suggests that children tend to gravitate toward their parents' values. This would seem to ensure that Americans born after Roe v. Wade have a greater propensity to vote for the pro-life party--that is, Republican--than they otherwise would have.

I find his analysis fascinating, as this is a real demographic trend that has yet to be seriously addressed. There are consequences to population reduction, especially targeted reduction. Taranto points out:
More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973, and these are not randomly distributed across the population. Black women, for example, have a higher abortion ratio (percentage of pregnancies aborted) than Hispanic women, whose abortion ratio in turn is higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. Since blacks vote Democratic in far greater proportions than Hispanics, and whites are more Republican than Hispanics or blacks, ethnic disparities in abortion ratios would be sufficient to give the GOP a significant boost--surely enough to account for George W. Bush's razor-thin Florida victory in 2000.

Here's a question. If an activist group came across these figures and decided to protest the fact that black and hispanic women have abortions at higher ratios than white women, how would they wage this campaign? Would they demand that abortion be marketed more to white women? Would they cry "Eugenics!" (And they'd be entitled to, in light of Margaret Sanger's positions. Check out this article from Would they demand restrictions on abortion? Stuff to ponder.

1 comment:

Myron said...

how would they wage this campaign? Would they demand that abortion be marketed more to white women? Would they cry "Eugenics!"

Or would they recognize that people in poor socioeconomic circumstances who have access to abortion are more likely to use it, whereas well-off people with the same level of access will tend to keep their children at a higher rate? "The poor are killing their children - think of the CHILDREN!" sounds like a great headline-grabber for an anti-poverty campaign. :)

Also, abortion ratios can be deceptive when talking about their effect on demographics. Have the number of pregnancies per woman (white vs. black vs. hispanic) been controlled for? Fewer abortions per live birth doesn't necessarily mean more live births, so the demographic effects would be undetermined. Fertility indicators seem a better way to measure this, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that blacks and hispanics have larger families than whites.

Even if the abortion always equals smaller family size argument holds for all ethnic groups and backgrounds, I wonder, are the trends you are talking about cyclical? For example, once pro-life sentiment reaches a certain point (and abortion is severely restricted) will there be a backlash? A movement towards pro-choice (such that conversions, rather than births into, a pro choice stance, cause this group to grow, and then shrink again under Darwinian assumptions, and then grow, and shrink?)

I wish I had a greater knowledge of history, because it seems likely to me that there are homeostatic mechanisms for society, as well as for individuals - there is an optimal balance between social freedom (ethics of liberty and choice) and social responsibility (ethics of caring for all members of society), and when we get too far from that balance controlling mechanisms kick in (people are able to make a good case to move society in the other direction). If cultural movements are cyclical, and if we could determine the point around which each of these cycles fluctuate, we could use this knowledge to stabilize society around some evidence-based "natural optimal balance", similar to how central banks attempt to stabilize economic growth rather than letting the business cycle run rampant, or pushing for economic growth at any cost.