Part of Bill Moyers Program tonight (1-27-13) was devoted to the fact that the Supreme Court decision “Roe v. Wade” had been in effect for going on forty years. In addition, abortions, the legalization of which for the whole country was the point of that decision, were currently harder to get than any other time in the previous forty years. One of Mr. Moyer’s presenters pointed out that the original laws banning abortions were not based on religion or morals but a power grab by doctors (mostly male, mostly white) trying to put midwives and nurses (mostly female) out of business.
That aside, it is the common impression in this country that as soon as the ink was dry on Roe v. Wade, babies were being killed by the hundreds, thousands, millions further eroding white population supremacy.
So, I made a graph showing the U.S. Birthrate by year for the last 100 years or so. If “Roe” had had such an effect, we should see plummeting birthrates immediately thereafter, no? Here’s the graph—can you pick out when Roe became the law of the land?
Did you find it?
The next graph has the same data but with the year labels replaced and two lines added. The red line shows the year that Roe became law, 1974. The blue line shows the trend in birth rate just prior to its passage. From 1905, the birth rate in this country has been declining (it recovered somewhat after the Great depression but then continued to decline). This is normal and almost always occurs as people in general become more affluent and women in specific become better educated and acquire more political power. Remember the “Population Bomb?” We were heading to sheer disaster due to over population according to some in the 1970’s. The United Nations had studies and dire predictions; it wasn’t just disaster mongers claiming this. But the Population Bomb didn’t pop. The reason? Education of women and political rights won by women around the world. Birth rates tumbled and the “bomb” was defused.
You can see from this second graph that right after Roe was made law, the decline in birth rate virtually stopped. It certainly didn’t follow the blue line from that point onward. Now this is a complicated subject and Roe is not the only factor involved, but certainly the numbers of abortions did not sky rocket (it would have shown up) nor did women turn away from motherhood. What Roe allowed was safe, medical abortions rather than the unsafe “back alley” ones that were available before. If there was any other effect, it wasn’t negative.
Repealing Roe or doing the myriad things Republicans and other Conservatives are doing to effectively “outlaw” abortion will not reduce the number of abortions. It will just result in more dead women from unsafe abortions and the last time I checked, dead women don’t have any more children.
Some argue that this is a moral issue. I say, if it is a moral issue, don’t legislate it for Pete’s sake. Do we want our morality legislated? What they “give” us, they can “take” away. If you believe abortion to be immoral, no one should force you to have one. But if you do not, should you be forced not to have one? Some “moral” issues such as murder are easy to legislate to the betterment of all. Others not so much. We should keep to our own moralities and keep religion and the rest out of our state houses.