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Legalized Abortion and Crime Rate Decrease

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Legalized Abortion and Crime Rate Decrease:

A Conduit of Causes in the Past and Effects in the Present

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Crime and criminality in the United States were steady on the rise during the last half of the century. From the 60’s up to the late 80’s crime rates have doubled and even tripled in the biggest cities of the country. Other small cities in America similarly experienced a continuous increase in criminality. Experts, on the basis of police records, were wary about the data on crime.

Thus they began to give bleak predictions about the further increase in crime rates ten or twenty years down the road. James Alan Fox, a trends analyst and criminologist, pegged his forecast at an alarming level:  “if we do not do anything about the problem, there shall be bloodbath in the streets everyday” (Levitt & Dubner, 2007).

Although James Fox explained later that the warning was purposefully made to horrify people, to alarm them to the point of action and concern, his forecast was no exaggeration (Levitt & Dubner, 2007). It was an honest and clear depiction of what it was like before in terms of violence and criminal incidence. Yet at the turn of the 20th century, the gradual and alarming increase in criminality dropped sharply. City after city, police forces record a steep and anomalous decline in rates of crime in all areas: anomalous because it was not aligned with the predictions of the experts made years before (Levitt & Dubner, 2007).

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make the assertion that the anomalous drop in crime rates in the 90’s and the decades after is not purely a result of popularly known causes. Prominent in their argument is that the a) increase in police enforcement, b) the innovations in police strategies, prisons, c) the aging of the population, d) gun control e) harsher penalties and f) strong economy actually did little or even nothing at all to arrest the worrisome increase in crime (2007). Consequently, Levitt and Dubner trace the cause of the phenomena into an unlikely source: the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Roe vs. Wade in the 70’s which upheld the rights of the woman to choose. What was then a privilege enjoyed by the middle and upper class, the jobless and marginalized women of the lower class can now avail of for their own benefit. For the very first time, legalized abortion gave mothers the choice whether or not they should have the baby quite unlike before when abortion is considered a crime.

The authors establish a nexus between the fact of abortion and the social reality of crime. They posit the novel idea that crime in reality has little to do with the enhancements in police enforcement, death and gun laws, good economy etc., although some of these factors may have contributed substantially to the decline in crime. A huge part of the chapter was used on the discussion on why these factors were not as effective a cure as they may have seem at first. The authors debunked these commonly held notions one by one leaving only one other factor that could perhaps explain the statistical anomaly: the increase in the number of purposive infant fatality to the sharp downturn of criminality in states where abortion have been legalized.

Crime is closely connected with poverty and population exacerbated by unwanted pregnancy and dysfunctional families. The criminals, after all, are just like you and me. They belong to some form of family in one way or the other, and they were once children who grew up in unique environments. What sets them apart is that their environment and family are hostile to their growth and as such, they become more likely to commit some crime than one who is born into relatively better circumstances. In the same vein, abortion becomes more than just an empowerment for women it likewise serves as an equalizing factor in society. Fetuses that comparatively have a remote chance in surviving and developing normally because of being born underprivileged and unwanted, are aborted even before they develop into full adults inclined to commit crimes.

One does not need to stretch the imagination far to see the relation between unwanted children and crime. Statistics do not lie, and for the states that have legalized abortion earlier than most, criminal data show that these were the same states that experienced a huge turnaround in criminality first. It makes sense to attribute the crime drop to the court decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion 20 years prior. The figures all add up in the sense that by 1990 the children of the Roe v. Wade year would have grown into able citizens capable of committing crimes. But precisely because a million underprivileged and unwanted babies are reported to have been aborted around that period, a proportionate number of would-be criminals and their crimes have likewise disappeared decades afterwards. What is more utterly convincing is the reality that mothers know what is best for their baby and for their families. If they choose abortion it is quite probable that they decide so for a good reason. For a myriad reasons such as being unable to raise the kid, resenting having a baby or for the simple fact that the mothers are not yet ready to take on the huge responsibility of another mouth to feed, the mothers in turn weigh the consequences of their actions against the inaction of forcing to have the baby in a world of economic and social inequality. Pro-life and civil liberties activists might argue that the unborn kid has just as much chance to make it great in the world. In reality, however, children are born unequal and such inequality only becomes worse when they grow up. Pro-creative choices viz. abortion empowered women to determine what is best for both the mother and her child. Indeed, a significant number of fetuses that would have otherwise been born into hostile environments were aborted. Potential criminal elements, who supposedly should have wreaked havoc in the 1990’s had arguably disappeared because of legalized abortion. To ask ‘where have all the criminals gone’ is to first inquire whether these criminals have been born in the first place.

The only practical problem to the theory is the difficulty in drawing the connection between events spaced far in-between. Who would have guessed that an event in the present is merely a consequence or a by-product of the events of the distant past? Yet this is exactly what the authors want to say in the book. Sometimes the causes and connections need not be immediate or fresh. The number of years that it takes for results to happen does not change the fact that trends usually happen slowly and gradually from a supposedly innocuous cause.


Levitt, S. D. & Dubner, S.J. (2007). Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden

side of everything. New York: Penguin Books.

Cite this Legalized Abortion and Crime Rate Decrease

Legalized Abortion and Crime Rate Decrease. (2016, Jul 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/legalized-abortion-and-crime-rate-decrease/

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