Legal abortion has increased illegitimacy

Legal abortion has increased illegitimacy


Abortion may eliminate "unwanted" children, but it increases out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood, says John Lott Jr. in today’s Wall Street Journal.


Mr. Lott provided some astonishing numbers to back up his claims.


“In the United States from the early 1970s, when abortion was liberalized, through the late 1980s, there was a tremendous increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, rising from an average of 5% of all births in 1965-69 to more than 16% two decades later (1985-1989). For blacks, the numbers soared from 35% to 62%. While not all of this rise can be attributed to liberalized abortion rules, it was nevertheless a key contributing factor.”


As the debate about abortion has taken center stage in both the presidential campaigns and the nomination of recent Supreme Court Justices, Mr. Lott says that the time to evaluate the practical societal effects of Roe v. Wade has come.


Mr. Lott asserts that Roe did substantially increased abortions, “more than doubling the rate per live birth in the five years from 1972 to 1977.” Besides the doubling of the number of abortions, Lott sees four additional significant societal changes that were brought about by Roe:


Ø        A sharp increase in pre-marital sex.

Ø        A sharp rise in out-of-wedlock births.

Ø        A drop in the number of children placed for adoption.

Ø        A decline in marriages that occur after the woman is pregnant.


“Some of this might seem contradictory. Why would both the number of abortions and of out-of-wedlock births go up? If there were more illegitimate births, why were fewer children available for adoption?” said Lott.


Mr. Lott answers the question by saying that, “part of the answer lies in attitudes to premarital sex. With abortion seen as a backup, women as well as men became less careful in using contraceptives as well as more likely to have premarital sex.”


“But all these changes--rising out-of-wedlock births, plummeting adoption rates, and the end of shotgun marriages--meant one thing: more single parent families. With work and other demands on their time, single parents, no matter how "wanted" their child may be, tend to devote less attention to their children than do married couples; after all, it's difficult for one person to spend as much time with a child as two people can.”


“From the beginning of the abortion debate, those favoring abortion have pointed to the social costs of "unwanted" children who simply won't get the attention of "wanted" ones. But there is a trade-off that has long been neglected. Abortion may eliminate "unwanted" children, but it increases out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood. Unfortunately, the social consequences of illegitimacy dominated,” Mr. Lott said.


Addressing the current situation Mr. Lott wrote, “children born after liberalized abortion rules have suffered a series of problems from problems at school to more crime. The saddest fact is that it is the most vulnerable in society, poor blacks, who have suffered the most from these changes.”


“Liberalized abortion might have made life easier for many, but like sex itself sometimes, it has had many unintended consequences.”


Mr. Lott is the author of "Freedomnomics," which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

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