NRL News

Abortion and Crime: the link debunked yet again

by | Jun 4, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

A tip of the hat to our friends at Massachusetts Citizens for Life for alerting followers to an important blog entry appearing yesterday in of all places the pro-pro-pro- abortion Boston Globe. Titled “Abortion and Crime—a missing link,” I know nothing about its author other than that James Alan Fox is described as  the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Boston.

Then context is this. Forever and always, it seems, there has been an ugly undertow lurking beneath the polite surface suggesting when “those” people have more abortions, collectively we are better off.

I’m sure John Donohue of Yale and Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago are wonderful people but, as Fox points out, a decade ago they ignited “a spirited debate among economists” when they “concluded that legalized abortion had produced a drop in crime.”

Fox deftly summarizes the core of their argument: “These prominent scholars argued that following the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, thousands of unwanted fetuses were aborted instead of being born into less-than-ideal environments, thereby producing two decades later a reduction in the pool of at-risk, violence-prone individuals.”

It wasn’t true, as we made clear over and over (see and The reason this unfortunate association came up in Fox’s blog is that last week the New York Times ran an article that searched for an explanation why there has been a drop in serious crime.

Fox lists many possible explanations offered by e-mailers responding to the Times article and then adds, “More than a few of the e-mailers, however, were riders on the abortion-crime link bandwagon.”

The remainder of his blog is a succinct explanation both why that wasn’t/isn’t true and, to an extent, how it couldn’t be true. For example, “nearly 60% of the decline in murder since 1990 involved perpetrators ages 25 and older—individuals who would have been born prior to the landmark abortion decision.”

And if you just take “the large drop in murder and other violent crime from the first six months of 2009 to the corresponding months of 2010,” Fox writes, neither the abortion-crime hypothesis nor anything else can really explain such a precipitous decline.

Take five minutes out and go to We will always have people, some no doubt with the best of intentions, who will tell us that society will be safer if babies who would be born into less-than-ideal environments are instead aborted.

If we can’t appeal to their hearts, then we must be thoroughly equipped to talk to their heads.

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Categories: Abortion