Taking apparent inspiration from Thomas Malthus’ hypothesis that there must be a “strong and constantly operating check on population for the lower races” through birth control and abortion, the new eugenicists of today are already talking about the ruinous societal consequences if Roe v Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. And although faithful Catholics have long rejected these utilitarian arguments for abortion, the Malthusian warnings of increases in poverty, crime, and abuse if abortion is curtailed have escalated since the draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs Jackson was leaked.
Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood, devoted an entire chapter of her 1922 book The Pivot of Civilization to criticizing the dangers of the “overbreeding of the races”. Today’s Malthusians are warning of crime in the streets and starvation once the Supreme Court issues its ruling in Dobbs. United States Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) recently told an MSNBC interviewer, “The fact that things like inflation can happen, and it becomes more expensive to feed your kids and to fuel your car is exactly why people need to be in charge of how many mouths they’re going to have to feed.”
Sanger built upon the popularity of eugenics, which had become almost a religion among elites in the 1920s and early 1930s. In her earliest days, Sanger focused her work and her rhetoric on trying to create a superior race. Attracted, like Adolph Hitler, to Nietzsche’s ideas about humanity as a work in progress and the need to create the godlike Superman, Sanger envisioned a new race of biologically superior creatures who would be as different from us as we are from apes. In her first book, titled Women and the New Race, she advocated birth control and sterilization as tools to prevent the superior race from being “forced into a cradle race with rapidly breeding inferiors.” In 1939, she produced a pamphlet called “Birth Control and the Negro,” which asserted that the “poorer areas, particularly in the South, are producing alarmingly more than their share of future generations.”
The dark side of the Sanger legacy continues today in the heavy marketing of abortion in neighborhoods primarily populated by African Americans. An analysis of New York City abortion rates and ratios by ZIP code published by the Chiaroscuro Foundation reveals that Bedford-Stuyvesant has the highest rate of abortion in Brooklyn at 59 percent. This means that there are 59 abortions to every 100 pregnancies. The abortion rates in Jamaica, Queens and Southeast Queens and Central Harlem-Morningside Heights are even worse – well in excess of 60 percent. In contrast, while more than half of the pregnancies in New York City’s Black and Hispanic neighborhoods end in death for the unborn child, only 6 percent of the pregnancies for women living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side zip code of 10162 end in abortion. And only 6.7 percent of all pregnancies in the lower Manhattan Zip code of 10282 end similarly.
From the earliest days of the abortion rights movement led by Sanger, there was an attempt to broaden what was then a radical feminist idea to the larger issue of the “general welfare of the whole human race.” Sanger argued that controlling the birth of children was pivotal to a rational approach dealing with the threat of over-population and its ruinous consequences in poverty and disease. Her message—like that of today’s Malthusians—was that when women have control over the choice to end the life of the unborn child, they will improve the human race, preventing poverty and crime.
This has been occurring for many decades now. Professors John Donohue and Steven Levitt of the University of California at Berkeley provided a powerful economic argument in favor of abortion that relied on many of the stereotypes first promoted by the eugenicists of the Sanger Era. In a scholarly paper published in 2001 entitled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” Donohue and Levitt used elaborate mathematical models to marshal evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to crime reductions. They maintain that crime began to fall roughly eighteen years after abortion was legalized and pointed out that the five states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation which legalized it in 1973 with Roe v Wade. States with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s according to the authors. They contend that “legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent in the drop in crime.” And they warn of the coming violence in the streets if abortion is curtailed in any way.
In the spirit of Sanger, Donohue and Levitt claim their data demonstrates that abortion is the strongest contributor to the reduction in crime rates in society. In fact, they suggest that the “social benefit to reduced crime as a result of abortion may be on the order of $30 billion annually” and they predicted that “any attempt to limit abortion will result in higher crime rates and they subtly offer suggestions for public policy.”
Despite criticisms from the pro-life community for their utilitarian argument for abortion, Levitt teamed up with a new co-author, Stephen Dubner, to write about the abortion-crime link, as well as a number of interesting economic questions, in their 2005 best-selling book,Freakonomics. While avoiding the politically incorrect issue of how increased African American abortion rates bear on crime reduction, Freakonomics continues the argument that “more abortion yields less crime.” But the book takes a more circumspect position by acknowledging that an economic calculation of benefits that abortion may yield in terms of crime rates “feels less Darwinian than Swiftian…one need not oppose abortion on moral or religious grounds to feel shaken by the notion of a private sadness being converted into a public good.”
The idea of abortion being a “public good” was the one that seemed to be carrying the day from the pro-choice side as corporations increasingly promise workers to help them pay for their abortions if they live in a state that outlaws the practice of abortion. Amazon was just the latest company to promise to pay up to $4,000 for employees’ travel costs to seek abortion care if they live in a state without access to abortion. Amazon joined Citigroup, Yelp, Uber, Lyft, Bumble, Levi-Straus, and Match Group in helping employees end their pregnancies through abortion.
One cannot dismiss the idea that abortion serves the bottom line for these companies. Just as many companies now encourage and pay for their female employees to freeze their eggs for a future pregnancy in order to enable them to continue working through their childbearing years, providing access to abortion for high-value employees is most likely seen by these companies as a boon to the balance sheet.
It is indeed a Modest Proposal that these companies are offering—and one that should be rejected. The Malthusians have attempted to control the conversations since the 1973 decision in Roe v Wade. Their utilitarian arguments appeared to have “won” the day—until recently. Finally, the Supreme Court decision may be a sign that we are beginning to take steps toward rejecting the culture of death and reclaiming a culture of life.
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