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Wallis and Abortion



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In today’s Huffington Post, Jim Wallis argues that that deteriorating economic conditions are leading to an increase in the abortion rate.

To a certain extent he is correct. A number of studies indicate the incidence of abortion increases during hard economic times.

Unfortunately, Wallis goes on to argue that more generous welfare programs are an effective strategy for reducing the incidence of abortion. He links to some articles which praise a (now discredited) study that was released by the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good back in August. This study claimed that more spending on programs like WIC and TANF were correlated with reductions in abortion. It also purportedly found that family caps increase abortion rates.

However, in December Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good quietly retracted their original study and placed a revised version on their website. The authors admitted mistakes were made in the original data collection. More importantly the results of this new version do not live up to the original press release. The new version finds that WIC spending does not have an impact on the abortion rate. 2) Family caps do not have an impact. 3) TANF has an impact, but it is very inconsistent across time. TANF spending is correlated with increases in abortion in the 1980s and decreases in the 1990s. Hardly a result reliable enough on which to base policy decisions.

Crisis-pregnancy centers and various sources of public and private support, certainly have a role to play in assisting women who face crisis pregnancies, especially in difficult economic times. However, it is unfortunate that Wallis does not give pro-life legislation any credit for the 1990s abortion decline. It is also unfortunate that Wallis and many of his ideoligical allies seem unconcerned with the Obama administration’s recent decisions that have shown diregard for the sanctity of human life including his revoking of the Mexico City Policy and his decision to allow federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research.

 – Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and is a visiting fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.



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