Sunday, October 19, 2008

Does the welfare state reduce abortion?

I’m reading breezy claims that the welfare state reduces abortions. I’m not a statistician, but here’s an interesting breakdown, state-by-state:

If the welfare state reduces abortion, then why do poor red states seem to have lower abortions rates than rich blue states with a more generous “safety net”?

And here’s a striking statistic from the liberal NYT:

“Welfare recipients generally have abortions at a higher rate than other women: In New Jersey, in the quarter ending December 1991, the abortion rate for the welfare population was 27 per 1,000 compared with 4 per 1,000 for all New Jersey women of child-bearing age. And although the abortion rate in New Jersey, and nationwide, declined between 1991 and 1996, the abortion rate among New Jersey's welfare recipients rose during the same period. By 1996, the Rutgers report found, the gap had widened further, with 29 abortions per 1,000 women receiving welfare, compared with 3 per 1,000 women in the general population.”


  1. So you think that showing that poor women are more likely to have abortions proves that programs aimed at reducing poverty would not decrease abortions?

    For the record, I never said that welfare states reduce the abortion rate. I said that a broad social safety net, access to contraception, and universal health care that covers the staggering costs of pre and post natal care reduce abortions.

    I don't think the TANF assistance checks in New Jersey, whose cash benefits pay well below the poverty line, qualify. A women with one child on TANF assistance in New Jersey gets $322 in cash assistance a month. Now, lets be generous and assume her housing is totally subsidized, and she's on medicaid. That just leaves her having to feed, clothe, get childcare while she's at work (a requirement of TANF) and send her kid to school on $322 a month. That's pretty harsh, right? So how much would she receive in cash benefits if she were to have another child?


    Yes, if she had another child, and double the financial obligations, her cash payments would go up by a whopping $102. Would you like to raise a child in Newark on $102 a month?

    Are we supposed to be surprised that women who are already on TANF, and who thus are struggling to raise a child on $322 a month, would be more likely to have an abortion when faced with caring for another child, with only another $100 a month to care for it?

    Of course women on welfare in this country will be more likely to abort their children! They're the people who suffer most from poverty, and can least afford more children! No welfare recipient in this country is getting the kind of support that would reduce abortions. In fact, I'd argue that our welfare system encourages abortion since in nearly every state the amount of cash benefits per child decreases with every additional child.

    Compare this woman in New Jersey to a woman in Western Europe. Depending on where she lives, the woman in Western Europe will receive cash benefits that, unlike the US system, pay above the poverty line and where the amount per child does not decrease with every additional child. She'll have free access to health care, free access to child care, and if she's working, a year of fully paid maternity leave.

    Is it any wonder, then, that Western Europe has an abortion rate that's half our own? (11 abortions per 1000 women as opposed to our 21 abortions per 1000 women). A woman facing an unexpected pregnancy in Western Europe is not facing the economic hardships that a similar woman would be facing under our current welfare system.

  2. So I guess we should just ignore personal responsibility entirely, then, huh?

    Perhaps the single women you describe should, oh, say...not have illicit sex?

    Why on earth is it the state's responsibility to subsidize fornication?

  3. Abortion rates have dropped significantly with the dismantling of the pinnacle of the welfare state:

    This includes the Clinton years, which saw -- under pressure from a Republican Congress -- the most dramatic welfare reform in U.S. history.

  4. That article doesn't contradict a thing I've been saying, and affirms most of the case I've been trying to make. It says that abortions have declined among high income groups, but haven't declined among low income groups. QED.

    Once you know that the poor are disproportionately more likely to have abortions than the middle class, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to draw the obvious conclusion. Some of the highest abortion rates in the world are in South America, where abortion is illegal, but poverty is rampant. And some of the lowest abortion rates in the world are in Western Europe, where abortion is legal, but poverty is rare. I leave it up to you whether you'll draw the obvious conclusion.

    But again, I'd like to point out that I've never suggested, and never would suggest, that American-style welfare would reduce abortion! Quite the contrary, I've said that American-style welfare encourages abortion among poor women, particularly women already receiving welfare.