Pro-Choice is *Not* Pro-Abortion

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I'm been toying with blogging this for a few days now. Since it's been rattling around in my head and nagging at me rather persistently, I think I'd better get it out and see if it leaves me alone after that.

My mom teaches an adult Sunday School class/Bible Study at a somewhat conservative, evangelically leaning Methodist church in northwestern Pennsylvania. She and Dad have a number of friends there and seem to fit in pretty well, despite their own left-leaning politics and socially liberal worldview. Every now and then someone says something to Mom that gives her pause. She has to decide whether to let it slide in the interest of world peace or whether to get into it a bit in the name of defending everyone who has a different viewpoint from the majority of the congregation.

This past Sunday was just such an occasion.

Most likely referring to this article1, one of her students stated that abortion is the cause for the likely failing of Social Security and that if abortion had never been legalized, we would not be looking at the looming Social Security crisis.

As my friend Jake would say .... "Rrr-r-eally?"

Mom told me this on the phone and I immediately got online and began Googling like a mad-woman. We were positive there was a heinous flaw in this "logic," but it took us a few minutes to figure it out factually.

Depending on which source you use, there have been somewhere between 35 million and 45 million abortions since Roe v. Wade legalized it in the United States in 1973. Inaccuracies exist due to the various reporting methods.2 Still, a number in the range of 40 million seems fair.

Abortions per year peaked around 1990 at around 1.6 million (AGI) and have declined steadily ever since. We're now near 1.3 million (AGI), a number close to the 1977 figure.

So ... say 40 million pregnancies have been electively terminated since Roe v. Wade. I know there's currently an infant mortality rate of about 6.87 deaths per 1,000 live births3. I don't have mortality rates for later in childhood, early adulthood, etc., but it's safe to say that even unaborted, not nearly all of the 40 million would survive until the current day.

Which brings me to my next point. Roe v. Wade wasn't all that long ago, population wise. The very earliest of those legally aborted in 1973 would only now be 35 years old. Millions of others would decrease in age down from that point. So only the 18-35 years olds in that group would even be contributing to the Social Security pot at all4. The Social Security withholding rate is approximately 7.65% of your first $102,200 in earnings5. The calculations in the footnotes come up with a figure of around 15.2 million wage earners aged 18-35.

I think it's safe to say that generally speaking the 18-35 year olds are not earning at the peak of their lifetime salary potential. So, they're probably largely under the $102,200 threshold. In fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workers aged 16-24 earn an average of $425 per week6 and the 25-34 year olds earn $656 weekly. Which of course comes to only $21,528-$34,112 annually. Well, below our 7.65% threshold.

So, these individuals would be contributing roughly $1,646.90-$2,609.57 each into the Social Security pot each year.

If we use our still rather generous and unrealistic number of 15.2 million wage earners missing from the system, we have a range of $25.0 billion and $39.7 billion annually. This report from 2003, says the Social Security shortfall was then in the $26.4 trillion range, increasing at that time $1.46 trillion per year, which would put us already at least $33.7 trillion short over the next 75 years.

So ... not aborting those 23 million wage earners could not possibly have made enough of a positive impact on the Social Security system7. And ... over the next 75 years, all of those 23 million would then later be drawing upon Social Security, sapping the system further. But ...

... and here it is.

Legalizing abortion may have had nothing to do with any of this, one way or another.

According to the National Abortion Rights Action League (granted a biased source, I'm working on securing others), roughly 1.2 million abortions were performed annually through the 1950s and 1960s. The AGI says the number could range from 200,000 to 1.2 million annually through that same time period. The 1.2 million number is usually reserved for the just-before-Roe v. Wade data ... so, say the very early 1970s.

And, according to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of childbearing women worldwide has doubled between 1950 and 1990. The U.S. is behind the worldwide growth curve for that demographic8. By about half ... according to numerous estimates.

The childbearing population of the U.S. has grown by roughly 30% since just before the legalization of abortion. And yet, by many estimates, the number of abortions has grown by only 10% during the same time period.

Women are not having significantly more abortions just because it's legal.

So, why worry about keeping it legal or not??? Well, to save the lives of the mothers, of course. If even one woman is saved by having access to safe, sterile medical facilities, it's worth it. After all, statistically, more babies are not dying with legal abortion than with illegal abortion. So if that whole issue is a wash (as gruesome and unsavory and horrible to think about as it is...), it's really just the lives of the mothers at stake.

I'm very much not pro-abortion. Very. Much. Not. I'm sad that any woman should feel that it was the only option remaining to her. I think the major fallacies in arguments made by Pro-Life groups is that 1. Pro-choice=pro-abortion (I don't know anyone who sits around gleefully rubbing their hands together at the prospect of any abortion.), 2. Keeping abortion legal equals increased numbers of abortions, 3. It's an ungodly practice that equates to murder and should be banned on those grounds.

Well ... #1 just isn't true. #2 seems statistically untrue or at least unlikely. #3 should remain a personal choice between a woman and her God.


Make what you will of my research and so forth, but please refrain from any personal attacks. Thankyouverymuch.


1 Or referring to any number of conservative pundits, media personalities, etc referring to this item ... just Google abortion social security and see the stuff that shows up. This has been around for years now, though this is the first I've heard of it.

2 The CDC regularly reports lower numbers than the Alan Guttmacher Institute (one of the leading independent research centers for women's health issues). Reporting laws vary from state to state and it's suspected that some health care professionals under-report to protect themselves.

3 Article here.

4 Straight out adding up the AGI and CDC numbers for the years 1973-1990 gives us a range of 21,424,281 and 25,426,000. So, roughly 23 million abortions that could possibly have resulted in current-day wage earners ... again not subtracting out for natural miscarriages, infant mortality, and other causes of death up to the current day. Additionally, many of those who survive to their majority would not even be earning and therefore contributing to Social Security at all. According to this chart, it seems to me that roughly 1/3 of those in the designated 18-35 age group are not in the work force.

5 Link here, and is it just me or is $102,200 a weird cut-off number?

6 Link here, and scroll down a bit to Table 2.

7 I'm not going to try to figure out the drain on the other governmental programs per born child in terms of education, welfare, WIC programs, housing, incarceration, etc. Not to mention wages lost to mothers bearing the additional 23 million.

8 Averages by country, according to the CIA, here.


Lisa said...

I'm impressed with your finding-of-the-numbers, and only have a smart remark to add:

What about all the women who lived because abortion was made legal, who are now sucking in that social security money? Perhaps this is where the billions become trillions...

Adrienne said...

Wow. Footnotes. I always love a good footnote.

I think your reasoning is sound -- but that it won't matter one bit to the crazy lady spouting off about abortion and SS....

Jolene said...

Wow, Lisa. That's special. And not in a good way.

Lisa said...

Hi Jolene--since we've never met, and I didn't include enough snarky lead in to my comment--I just wanted to make sure you knew I didn't really think that was a valid point to make, it was more a representation of the general misogyny that I feel underlies so many women's rights issues, including this one. Lisa

Heidi said...

Welcome, Jolene ... been lurking around long? :) Hope you stick around. Not that I feel I have significant and important things to say most of the time, but because conversation is always nice and always welcome.