By Kate Finegold
Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court case from 1973 that made abortions legal in the U.S., has most definitely brought about pivotal improvements in the lives of women. Some of which are more obvious than others. By declaring that abortion is included in a woman’s guarantee of privacy under the 14th Amendment, the abortion procedure was brought into the public arena to be regulated and standardized, making it less risky for women and also not as taboo a subject. Now that women can go to a licensed doctor and have their operation in a sterile hospital room, instead of being forced to seek out a “back alley butcher”, the complications and deaths associated with abortions has dropped to just below 0.3%. Before Roe v. Wade, 50% of maternal deaths were a result of illegal abortions. Now, abortion is 11 times safer than giving birth, a statistic that really drove home for me how important to women’s safety legalizing abortion has been (for more statistics, go to NOW).
Other societal benefits that can be attributed to the Roe v. Wade ruling are less apparent. Economist Steven Levitt believes that the legalization of abortion in the 70’s led to the substantial crime drop that occurred in the 1990s. Crime rates in the eighties were on the rise, and most people expected another spike to occur in the following decade. But what happened instead was a 30% decrease. Explanations for the sudden change included more innovation policing methods, harsher sentencing of criminals, a crack-down on the crack market, tighter gun control, a strong stable economy and more police. But based on Levitt’s calculations, these factors only contributed to half of the decrease in crime. What other explanation could there be? Abortion. If it wasn’t an option for parents not ready to start families, there would be a lot more children born into the world whose parents weren’t in a position to give them the proper care and attention. The first wave of unplanned for kids born in the seventies would be the prime age for crime in the nineties, but since they were never born, crimes they may have grown up to have committed didn’t happen. Thus the drop in overall crime activity, according to Levitt.
When I at first watched a FreakEnomics YouTube video about Levitt’s findings, I wasn’t buying it. In the heated debate still surrounding abortion, Levitt’s argument would definitely add ammo to the pro-choice side. Because let’s be honest, politicians, and most people for that matter, care most about and focus most on money. So an argument that shows that we could save dollars on law enforcement by having people police themselves with abortions could persuade a lot of folks to join the pro-choice side. While such an argument is indeed persuasive, is it true? I remember from a former statistics class to be wary that apparent correlation does not always mean causation. It seemed so far-fetched to me that I thought it was a farce, but then I researched the various effects of Roe v. Wade and what Levitt is saying began to make a lot more sense.
Children born to families that planned on having them are usually raised in a more caring environment. Mothers with unwanted births have a harder time forming a healthy relationship with their child; they spank and slap their children more often, according to a study posted on Planned Parenthood’s website. In addition, children born after 1973 in states that are pro-choice are less likely to be born in single-parent households, live in poverty or receive welfare. Hence, the option for legal, safe abortion that Roe v. Wade has made possible gives women the freedom to choose when they are ready to start a family, and when they are in the best position in their lives to do so. Although it is sad to think about children being neglected and mistreated because they weren’t “wanted”, it is more uplifting to think that less children are being born into this situation since the legalization of abortion, and that our entire society is benefiting from this in the form of less crime.