Does abortion really reduce crime? A look at the evidence from published studies

From Life Site News.


Law professors John R. Lott, Jr. of Yale Law School and John E. Whitley of the University of Adelaide found that legalizing abortion increased murder rates by up to seven percent. They concluded that legalizing abortion is a contributing factor to the great increase in out‑of‑wedlock births and single parent families, which in turn contribute to increased crime rates. Since 1970, the percentage of single‑parent households in the United States has nearly tripled, from 11 percent to 32 percent, and the percentage of out‑of‑wedlock births has nearly quadrupled, from 11 percent to 43 percent of all children.7 Children born out-of-wedlock and raised by only one parent have a significantly higher incidence of crime.

There are many other fundamental problems with the conclusion that legalized abortion leads to a decrease in crime.

Statistician David Murray confirmed that young males between the ages of 17 and 25 commit the majority of crimes. However, if abortion had reduced crime, the crime rates in the United States would have dropped first among young people. They did not. Instead, the number of crimes committed by older people dropped first. Nearly 60% of the decline in murder since 1990 involved killers aged 25 and older — who were born before Roe v. Wade.8

Murray also found that other nations with high abortion rates showed a large increase in crime about eighteen years after they legalized abortion. For example, in Great Britain, which legalized abortion in 1968, violent crime has been rising steeply since about 1985 ― exactly when it should have been declining, according to the Donohue‑Levitt thesis. Additionally, Russia, with the highest abortion rate on earth, has experienced a tidal wave of every kind of violent crime following the breakup of the Soviet Union.9

FBI statistics showed that the murder rate in 1993 for 14‑ to 17‑year‑olds in the USA (born in the years 1975‑1979, which had very high abortion rates) was 3.6 times higher than that of kids who were the same age in 1984 (who were born in the pre‑legalization years of 1966‑1970). Additionally, since Black women were having abortions at a much higher rate than White women, we should have expected the murder rate among Black youth to have declined beginning in about 1991. Instead, it increased more than five hundred percent from 1984 to 1993.10

Finally, the huge increase in violent crime that peaked in 1991 and then began to decline is more closely related to the crack epidemic, not abortion. The Donohue‑Levitt study confirms that the crime rate rose and fell exactly where crack cocaine was most easily available ― in the large cities and among young Black males.11 This is also confirmed by the rise in crime during the time period 1984 to 1991, after a decline from 1980 to 1984. If abortion were the primary cause of a decline in violent crime, the crime rate would have been relatively stable during the time period 1980 to 1991.

This might be a good post to store away, because I get the abortion reduces crime argument thrown at me about once a month. It has to be responded to with evidence. A good to buy on this is John Lott’s “Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t“. One third of the book covers this topic.

7 thoughts on “Does abortion really reduce crime? A look at the evidence from published studies”

  1. Why would anyone argue that abortion reduces crime? Well, I suppose, in the sense that legalizing abortion eliminates the crime of illegal abortions. But if “reducing crime” is the goal, it’s easy. Eliminate laws so everything is legal. That ought to reduce crime to zero!


    1. Yes, I know, I’m talking to myself, but in reply to my sarcastic “Eliminate laws so everything is legal” I just read from the Washington Times that the U.N. is calling for an international decriminalization of prostitution because making it illegal makes it unsafe. Not so outlandish after all.


  2. As Stan asked, “Why would anyone argue that abortion reduces crime?” So I guess the point of that argument would be that it’s better to kill all the bad people before they are even born, the ultimate pre-crimes intervention. Is it just me, or is there something shocking and reprehensible about the notion that some people are born with a tendency to criminal behavior and that nothing short of death will prevent them from acting out on it? Wouldn’t the better solution for reducing crime be to alleviate the problems that tend to produce criminals?

    Michael Greve recently posted a most interesting article entitled “Constitutional Moments” at the Liberty Law blog:
    He presents a point of view drawn from essays that Publius wrote for The Federalist:
    “And fortunately, good government does not depend on improving citizens’ character. Throughout, Publius attributes their wretched behavior and their flagging spirit to misconceived institutions—faction-ridden, corrupt state institutions, and the union’s ineffectual Congress. If you can fix the institutions, people’s character may or may not improve. But they will behave very differently, and they will be a more prosperous and contented bunch. Virtues and values are for the most part a dependent variable—dependent, that is, on the institutions.”

    We on the right have often observed that the welfare state produces a mentality that is inimical to liberty, self-reliance, and individual responsibility. Our social programs have destroyed traditional families in the black community, producing generations of children who grow up without proper guidance. Our public schools do not provide an adequate education to enable young people to become productive citizens. [You already know the whole list by heart, so I’ll stop there.]

    Rather than trying to reform individuals — or killing them before they can commit a crime — we should heed the advice from Publius and reform the governmental institutions that produce bad citizens, including the criminal class. Yes, it’s a whole lot easier to bump them off in utero, but somehow I just don’t think that’s a good public policy.


    1. I’m for both – bump them off in-utero as it’s cheaper than the police state we’re becoming to deal with their crime while simultaneously reforming the nanny state. I would bet as we move back towards a more traditional, self-reliant state [of mind], the immorality that has led people to the path of abortion will diminish rapidly…


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