Hey, did you know that a leading cause of infanticide is the Supreme Court? According to RealClearPolitics’ Mark Reinzi:
In the thirty years since Roe v. Wade, the number of infant homicides has skyrocketed. According to a study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control, babies are at the greatest risk for homicide during the first week of life and are now ten times more likely to be murdered on the day they are born than at any other time in their entire lives.
In fact, babies are now killed on the first day of their lives almost daily in this country. The rate of infant homicide is now twice what it was before we began telling women they were free to kill their unwanted babies before birth.
Mark’s thesis, as I understand it, is that pro-choice laws and attitudes create a culture of permissiveness towards killing babies, which leads to an increase in infanticide. Frankly, I think this theory is too stupid for words – does Mark really imagine that couples sit around saying “Honey, I see the Supreme Court just passed Roe v. Wade. Don’t you think we’d better kill Junior?”
Nonetheless, otherwise intelligent conservatives apparently take this claptrap seriously, so let’s test Mark’s theory against the facts. If Mark’s theory is correct – pro-choice attitudes lead to increased murders of newborns – states that have a (relatively) pro-life culture should therefore have much less infanticide than states with a (relatively) pro-choice culture. (State-by-state statistics are available from the federal government’s WISQUARS database).
First, consider five states with reputations for being strongly pro-life. Let’s look at their infanticide rates:
These statistics are for homicides of children aged 1 or younger for the year 2000. As you can see, infanticide rates are significantly higher among blacks than whites; I’m presenting the data for blacks and white separately because it allows better comparison between states. (Where “n/a” is listed, there were no known infanticides among blacks in that state in 2000).
Now, compare five states with reputations for being relatively pro-choice:
Notice the pattern? It’s the exact opposite of the pattern Mark’s theory would lead us to expect. The states with the strongest pro-choice cultures experience the least infanticide.
It’s clear that Mark’s theory is false. Now, I suppose I could turn around and claim that clearly pro-life attitudes increase infanticide – but that theory doesn’t make sense to me, either. (A couple of pro-choice states, like Hawaii, have very high infanticide rates). The truth is, pro-choice or pro-life laws probably have very little to do with infanticide rates.
What factors do matter? According to Child Trends Databank:
So why do pro-choice states have lower rates of infanticide? I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory. My bet is, it’s because pro-choice states are mostly liberal states, which provide more support for low-income women. That translates to more prenatal care and more infants born in hospitals, both factors that make it less likely that a newborn infant will be murdered.
Pro-life states, in contrast, tend to be dominated by conservatives and libertarians, who – despite evidence showing that state-provide prenatal care improves outcomes – would rather live with high infanticide rates than pay a higher tax rate.
But what about that increase in infanticide since 1970? That could mean anything. It could mean, for instance, that increased computerization of records and improved medical technology have made it much more likely that infanticides will be detected and statistically recorded. (In other words, the overall rate of infanticide hasn’t changed – just the likelihood of infanticides being detected and recorded). It could reflect demographic or racial shifts. It could reflect the growing influence of conservatives leading to less prenatal care for poor mothers. It could, in short, mean any number of things.
But – given the strong evidence provided by state-by-state data – only a pro-life ideologue could claim that it shows pro-choice attitudes lead people to murdering newborns. I therefore predict that many pro-lifers will continue making this claim, regardless of the evidence against it.
(Link to RealClearPolitics via Diotima, who mistakenly calls the article “worthwhile.”)
TWO AFTERTHOUGHTS: It’s impossible to intelligently discuss infanticide rates in the USA without at least nodding to the racial differences. As I’ve pointed out in the past, blacks in the USA are in effect living in a third world nation, when it comes to infant and maternal mortality.
Secondly, the unsubtle subtext of the RealClearPolitics essay – “pro-choicers are evil monsters who favor murdering children” – has not escaped me. This is, of course, the attitude that leads some pro-life psychos to justify murdering doctors and bombing clinics, and more generally part of the “dehumanize the opposition” approach to the debate which makes discussing abortion in the USA such a pisser. I haven’t responded to this aspect of the RealClearPolitics essay in detail because I consider it beneath reply (and also beneath contempt).
UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments to this post, which include a lot of valuable info added by Alas readers.