This is Part #3 of my Refuting Anti-Abortion Talking Points series. Today, I have only released one argument instead of two, as this one is fairly long and I have also posted an article (unsurprisingly, the news doesn’t stand still for long articles).
“Legalizing abortion has caused Americans to devalue life and increased the prevalence of more immoral acts, like divorce, mass shootings, and single-parenthood.”
This argument is most commonly held by right wing religious activists and is completely unsupported by the facts.
Put simply, there is no evidence that accepting abortion is in any way correlated with immorality or the devaluation of human life. In fact, people who support abortion rights tend to be less likely to support policies that devalue the lives of humans who are actually born than supposedly pro-life idealists. Here are a few examples of this:
- 79% of pro-life Republicans are pro-death penalty and most of the states that still use the death penalty also have strong abortion restrictions.
- Conservative Christians, particularly the Evangelicals who make up the backbone of the anti-choice movement, are statistically much more likely to support torturing suspected terrorists than other demographic groups.
- People who hold pro-life position are significantly more likely to support foreign military intervention than pro-choice individuals—for example, Republicans are far more likely to support war over diplomacy in regard to Iran then Democrats, yet still consider themselves to be more pro-life.
In totality, it appears that pro-life individuals want to protect fetuses and zygotes, but have no problem supporting policies that destroy or degrade the lives of humans who have actually been born. Conversely, people who support choice are far less likely to support policies that promote violence or death for full-grown humans. Given these correlations, it is ridiculous to assert that accepting abortion leads people to devalue human life.
However, correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation and it would also be fallacious to assert that anti-choice beliefs are directly correlated with a devaluation of human life (even in spite of these statistics). Conflating correlation with causation can lead to some extremely strange and inaccurate connections (ex. global warming and the global pirate population are very closely correlated), and pro-choice individuals should not fall into the same logical trap that anti-choice activists have.
While the correlations between pro-life opinions and anti-life policies (after birth) are completely dispositive of the right wing narrative, their arguments also fail on several other levels.
Looks pretty damning…if you don’t have an understanding of statistics or research design.
First, the assertion that divorce and single-parenthood are “immoral” is wrong is just false. There is no moral component to either issue unless you are looking at morality from a religious standpoint. Single parents may not be in ideal situations, but they are perfectly capable of raising their children if provided enough financial and social support. Similarly, divorce is not ideal, but it is sometimes the best solution to a broken marriage, particularly when one spouse is abusive.
Second, even if we look at this situation from the moral outlook of a religious anti-abortion activist, the causal relationship between abortion and incidents of school shootings, divorce, and single-parenthood is non-existent.
Single-parenthood has increased dramatically in the decades since Roe v. Wade, but this is because social welfare programs have grown during this time and made it much more possible for single-parents to survive. Ironically, before the SCOTUS legalized abortion and welfare programs made it more possible for single-parents to survive, a lack of resources was one of the major drivers for women seeking illegal and dangerous abortions. This means that legalizing abortion may have done little to increase the prevalence of the procedure (only now that it is legal we can measure it’s frequency) and any effect it has had is likely negative, as single-parents who cannot afford another child make up a significant portion of early-term abortions.
Mass shootings have increased in recent years and the exact causes of this aren’t fully understood—some argue that it is due to the increased accessibility of weapons, others argue that it is due to untreated mental illness, and yet others believe that it is a social problem stemming from the increased media penetration of mass shooters (people want fame, even if that fame is from killing a bunch of people). That said, no serious researcher has asserted that abortion is a likely cause of this increase.
Divorce has increased significantly since the legalization of abortion, but this is almost certainly caused by changes to divorce law. No fault divorces were first legalized in California during 1970 and most states adopted similar legislation in the following decade. This change in the law made it far easier for couples in trouble to divorce, and, as you can see in the following graph, coincided with a dramatic increase in the frequency of divorce. Also, you should note that the increase in divorce starts in the late 1960s and explodes in 1970, which preceded the legalization of abortion in 1973.
Please read, share, and come back on Saturday for the next installment of this series.