Politics: That he was politically insensitive?
|Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders denounced conservative commentator William J. Bennett yesterday for suggesting on his syndicated radio show that aborting black children would reduce the U.S. crime rate.
The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk show host said Wednesday that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." But, he said, "your crime rate would go down."
....Bennett's comments, flagged by the liberal news media watchdog group Media Matters for America, were quickly condemned by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who issued a statement demanding that Bennett apologize. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) circulated a letter, signed by 10 of his colleagues, demanding that the Salem Radio Network suspend Bennett's show.
Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, demanded that the show be canceled.
"Bennett's statement is outrageous. As a former secretary of education, he should know better," Henderson said. "His program should be pulled from the air."
....Bennett's comments came Wednesday, during a discussion on his talk show "Morning in America." A caller had suggested that Social Security would be better funded if abortion had not been legalized in 1973 because the nation would have more workers paying into the system.
Bennett said "maybe," before referring to a book he said argued that the legalization of abortion is one of the reasons the crime rate has declined in recent decades. Bennett said he did not agree with that thesis.
"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said, according to an audio clip posted on Media Matters for America's Web site. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, you know, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."
Look at the Justice Department stats for 2004
and the rate of abortions among black women
|In the 41 areas for which race was adequately reported, approximately 55% of women who obtained legal induced abortions were known to be white, 35% were black, and 7% were of other races; for 3% of the women, race was unknown. (Table 9). The abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births). Additionally, the abortion ratio for women of other races (329 per 1,000 live births) was 2.0 times the ratio for white women. The abortion rate for black women (30 per 1,000 women) was 3.1 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000 women), whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (22 per 1,000 women) was 2.2 times the rate for white women.
....The differential between the abortion ratio for black women and that for white women has increased from 2.0 in 1989 (the first year for which black and other races were reported separately) to 3.0 in 2000 (51). In addition, the abortion rate for black women has been approximately 3 times as high as that for white women (range: 2.6--3.1) since 1991 (the first year for which rates by race were published) (52). These rates by race are substantially lower than rates previously published by NCHS and suggest that the reporting areas for the 2000 report might not be fully representative of the U.S. black female population of reproductive age.|
Bennett is correct if you took the "Freakanomics" to the logical conclusion, the crime rate would go down since you are killing off black people. What he is guilty of is not being politically correct. Freakonomics even talked about it in a roundabout way.
|The reasoning is simple enough. In January 1973, the Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the United States, where previously it had been available in only five states. In 1974, roughly 750,000 women had abortions in America; by 1980, the number was 1.6m (one abortion for every 2.3 live births). “What sort of woman was most likely to take advantage of Roe v Wade?” the book asks. “Very often she was unmarried or in her teens or poor, and sometimes all three...In other words, the very factors that drove millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly criminal lives...In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v Wade was hitting its late teen years—the years during which young men enter their criminal prime—the rate of crime began to fall.”
The theory is the easy part, once you dare to articulate it. Testing it is quite another matter. But the book moves methodically and persuasively through the statistical evidence. It turns out, for instance, that crime started falling earlier in the states that legalised abortion before Roe v Wade; that the states with the highest abortion rates saw the biggest drops in crime (even controlling for other factors); that there was no link between abortion rates and crime before the late 1980s (when unborn criminals, as it were, first began to affect the figures); and that a similar association of crime and abortion has been found in other countries.
....“Freakonomics” looks in particular detail at racial aspects of parenting, which is where those variant spellings of Jasmine (or Jazmyne, or Jazzmin, and so on) come in. Examining the data, Mr Levitt tabulates the “blackest” names (Imani tops the list for girls, DeShawn for boys) and the “whitest” (Molly and Jake). Using all his ingenuity in finding and exploring data, he then examines whether being given a distinctively black or white name affects one's prospects in life. Does it? Surprisingly, perhaps, no. A boy named Jake will tend to do better than one called DeShawn, but that is because he is less likely to have been raised in a low-income, low-education, single-parent household, and not because the name itself confers any advantage."|
|We can't help but wonder if part of the outrage over Bennett's remark isn't precisely his view that aborting black babies is immoral. After all, the official position of the Democratic Party is that abortion not only is not immoral but is a fundamental constitutional right, as long as the mother consents. And although MediaMatters claims that Levitt's argument has nothing to do with race, blogger Bob Krumm notes that in a 2001 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Levitt and John Donohue expressly link black abortion to reduced crime:
"Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions."
In other words, whereas Bennett rejects the idea of reducing crime by aborting black babies, Levitt and Donohue argue that that is exactly what has happened over the past three decades, as a result of liberal policies. If they are right, there is, to say the least, a fundamental tension between blacks and pro-abortion feminists, two of the core components of the Democratic coalition. No wonder Bennett's comments have caused such discomfort on the left.
|New York Times
August 20, 1999
States that were the first to legalize abortion, Dr. Donohue and Dr. Levitt found, including New York, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, were also the first to experience a decrease in crime.
For example, in states that legalized abortion in 1969 or 1970, the researchers found, the cumulative decrease in crime from 1982 to 1997 was greater than for the rest of the nation. The decrease in murder was 16.2 percent greater, the decrease in violent crime over all was 34.4 percent greater, and the decrease in property crime was 35.3 percent greater.
Also, states with the highest abortion rates, the researchers found, had larger reductions in crime than states with low abortion rates.
The most likely explanation for these findings, the researchers assert, is that abortion has occurred selectively, decreasing the number of children likely to commit crimes as adults.
"Most of the reduction," Dr. Levitt and Dr. Donohue write, "appears to be attributable to higher rates of abortion by mothers whose children are most likely to be at risk for future crime." Teen-agers, unmarried women and black women, for example, have higher rates of abortion, the researchers note, and children born to mothers in these groups are statistically at higher risk for crime in adulthood.
The economic benefit to society of abortion in reducing crime, the researchers suggest, "may be on the order of $30 billion annually." |