In an apparent effort to call into question President Bush's pro-life credentials, a researcher claims that abortions increased under his administration for economic reasons. But both his facts and his analysis are flawed.
Glen Harold Stassen, Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, has published an opinion piece claiming that abortions are increasing under pro-life President George W. Bush, after declining under pro-abortion President Bill Clinton. He attacks Bush for being pro-life in word, but not in deed, for not offering pregnant women "health care, health insurance, jobs, child care, and a living wage."  The implication is that voters who want to reduce the number of abortions should vote for a presidential candidate who will provide the most government programs and the strongest economy, to wit, John Kerry.
There is only one problem with this "it's the economy, stupid," approach to abortion. Both his facts and his arguments are wrong. The last year for which national abortion data are available is 2000, so Prof. Stassen is only able to present us with scattered state data from the years since. And he admits that in some states the abortion rate has declined. As Dr. Randy O'Bannon, director of education at the National Right to Life Committee has convincingly shown, "some of his statistics are just flat wrong, while others are of ambiguous origin."  O'Bannon demolishes Stassen's thesis (for details, visit http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/stassenpart2.html).
Let's take his specific arguments one by one. First, he talks about how bad the U.S. economy is. But the unemployment rate now is just about what it was in 1996, when Clinton was up for reelection, and the economy is actually growing at a faster rate. At that time, the liberal media were telling us how wonderful the economy was. Now, of course, they have been collectively struck by amnesia. This has a lot more to do with their electoral preferences than with economics. They by and large supported Clinton in 1996. Now they are doing everything they can to diminish Bush's standing with the voters, including by publicly endorsing Kerry.
Second, he implies that the state of the economy is so dismal that it discourages men from marrying. But he provides no evidence of a fall in the marriage rate over the past four years. And that this in turn encourages abortion on the part of partner-less women. But what women need to raise a child is not a "partner," but a permanent mate. The root cause of the unwillingness of men to commit is the sexual revolution, which has weakened the bonds of matrimony and life-long monogamy as an ideal. Healing the institution of marriage must be a priority if the abortion rate is to come down and stay down. This is less a matter of economics than of cultural and spiritual ideals. In this Bush, with his spirited defense of marriage, is a force for the good.
Third, Dr. Stassen implies that by socializing medicine--that is, by providing "free" health care to all--abortion rates will go down. This argument is disingenuous because in every case where socialized medicine has been instituted, abortion rates go up--way up. The reason is simple:
The bureaucrats in charge want to keep their costs down and so they institute policies to encourage abortions, which are cheaper (over the short term) than live births. Look at Canada, England, Sweden, etc.
We should also bear in mind that while socialized medicine may be "free," it is not cheap. Taxes would have to be raised considerably on all members of the working population to pay for it. By reducing the disposable income of young couples, higher taxes make them much less likely to bear children. This not only drives down the birth rate, it increases the abortion rate. In Italy, where the average person pays 50 percent of their income in taxes, half of all second children are aborted, and 90 percent of all third children are aborted.
Dr. Stassen tells us that he and his wife refused to abort their unborn child following his wife's bout with rubella eight weeks into her pregnancy, and have raised a handicapped son. At the same time, he apparently fails to realize that under a system of socialized medicine the pressure to abort a potentially handicapped child would have been considerably more intense, and parents would have no alternative plan for health care to fall back on. China's state-run medical clinics are under orders to eliminate all handicapped children in utero or at birth, regardless of the desires of the parents.
Let us also not fail to remember that, when Bush took office in January 2001, he inherited an economy that was on the verge of recession. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon could very well have stalled the economy. The rising price of oil could have sent it into a tailspin. But that is not what happened. Millions of new jobs have been created. The U.S. economy has outperformed that of Japan, the U.K., Germany and other large developed countries these past four years. This has happened for one simple reason: tax cuts.
Instead of enacting the expensive new programs that Dr. Stassen proposes--socialized medicine, government-funded child care, a federal jobs-creation program--Bush decided to allow the American people to decide for themselves how to spend their hard-earned money. He sent everyone a tax rebate check, and lowered tax rates across the board. Americans have used this income to create more income, and more wealth, not just for themselves but also for all Americans. This jumpstarted the faltering economy in 2001, and has kept it moving in the years since.
Economic policy and abortion are indeed intertwined, as Dr. Stassen suggests. Without the Bush tax cuts, the economy could very well have gone into recession in 2001. The unemployment rate would have doubled, with millions of jobs permanently lost, and few new ones created. And abortion rates would undoubtedly have gone up nationwide.
The best way to support families with children, both born and unborn, is to keep the economy strong and their taxes low. As much of their income must be safeguarded from the state as possible. Parents, not the nanny state, know best what the needs of their children are.
 The article is available at http://raymondpward.typepad.com/rainman2/2004/10/prolife_look_at.html.
Dr. Stassen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Where are the fruits? Why Stassen's claims that Bush's policies increased abortion are baseless by Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D., Director of Education & Research and Laura Hussey, M.P.M., Special Research Assistant, National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. At http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/stassenpart2.html
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