Garth George at The Herald reckons that the root cause of all abuse and domestic violence is abortion. His position seems largely religious in nature so I can’t argue the point on his grounds. However, I was surprised to see reasonable-sounding commentators at Kiwiblog unsure whether George might be correct. This topic isn’t a new one and the most recent stab at it has been by the famous economist Steven Levitt and his co-author, John Donohue. In their paper they use statistical techniques to show that the drop in US crime in the ’90s was correlated with states’ legalisation of abortion.
They hypothesise that unwanted babies are more likely to live neglected lives and turn to crime, and then find the numbers to support their guess. Since then there have been attacks on their numbers which have generally come up short, or been shown not to affect the conclusions. Of course, correlation does not equal causation, so what can we say for sure?
Well, Donohue and Levitt’s numbers give some credence to claims that abortion reduces crime rates. Yet there are no sigificant studies that I’m aware of which support George’s claim that abortion causes crime. At present, the weight of evidence suggests that legalised abortion is a good thing for all those who want to feel safe at night. Perhaps, then, the social conservatives who oppose legalised abortion are right to worry about the crime rate!