NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 9, 2008

Even if abortion did lower crime by culling out "unwanted" children (a conclusion derived from flawed statistics), this effect would be greatly outweighed by the rise in crime associated with the greater incidence of single-parent families that also follows from abortion liberalization.  In short, more abortions have brought more crime, says John R. Lott, author of "Freedomnomics."

To understand why abortion might not cut crime, one should first consider how dramatically it changed sexual relationships:

  • Once abortion became widely available, people engaged in much more premarital sex, and also took less care in using contraceptives; abortion, after all, offered a backup if a woman got pregnant, making premarital sex, and the nonuse of contraception, less risky.
  • In practice, however, many women found that they couldn't go through with an abortion, and out-of-wedlock births soared.
  • Few of these children born out of wedlock were put up for adoption; most women who were unwilling to have abortions were also unwilling to give up their children.
  • Abortion also eliminated the social pressure on men to marry women who got pregnant.

All of these outcomes -- more out-of-wedlock births, fewer adoptions than expected, and less pressure on men "to do the right thing" -- led to a sharp increase in single-parent families, says Lott:

  • From the early 1970s through the late 1980s, as abortion became more and more frequent, there was a tremendous increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, from an average of 5 percent (1965-69) to over 16 percent 20 years later (1985-1989).
  • Among blacks, the number jumped from 35 percent to 62 percent.

What happened to all these children raised by single women?  No matter how much they want their children, single parents tend to devote less attention to them than married couples do.  Unsurprisingly, children from unmarried families are also more likely to become criminals, says Lott.

Source: John R. Lott, Jr. "The Myth About Abortion and Crime," Fox News, July 7, 2008.

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