Economics of Abortion

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In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court re-established the right to legal abortion in every state in a landmark decision in Roe V. Wade. Every woman now had the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion within the first two trimesters (up to 28 weeks).

First trimester 0-14 weeks; Second Trimester 14-28 weeks; Third trimester 28-40 weeks

Here we go. I honestly felt uneasy writing this article. Wasn’t it just Mother’s day? Ugh… Look, I know this article will have some backlash. I understand that the topic of abortion and pro-choice vs. pro-life is incredibly politically charged right now. But that is precisely why I need to write and share my thoughts on this topic and why I truly believe that “pro-choice” will ultimately leave America—and the rest of the world—better off.

First off, as an economist, I will try my best to back up my opinion with objective research, without intending to offend anyone. I always tell people that in terms of politics and economics, I am neither extreme left or right, but I simply try to approach the right solution.

Secondly, this article is half economics and half still my opinion, and I hope that any readers respect what I have to say.

Thirdly, to get it out of the way, I am pro-abortion, and thus, pro-choice. But that does not mean I am not pro-life. I will discuss the crucial differences further down this article.

Fourthly, I want to preface this: I don’t actually know anything.

Okay, let’s begin.

THE ECONOMICS OF LEGALIZED ABORTION [1]

The costs of legalized abortion generally range between $350 to $500 when down between 6 to 10 weeks of impregnation. The longer the pregnancy extends, the more expensive the cost of abortion generally becomes. After 16 weeks, it can go up to $650-$700. After the 20th week, it rises to above $1000. All of these prices will vary depending on the length of pregnancy, health insurance, income level, and type of abortion. Almost 90% of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Federal funding for abortions is forbidden unless in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is endangered. Yet, women who are denied funding for abortion will have one anyway, usually under significantly difficult situations. Costs of black market surgical abortions can be very damning for distressed women (young, black, low-income). Women will either take extra work, borrow money and go into debt, or defer payments on rent or groceries. Self-induced miscarriages can also be incredibly unsafe. Furthermore, as there will often be a time gap between receiving the abortion and impregnation, the abortion will occur at a later stage in the pregnancy, causing the procedure to be more expensive but also bringing in the argument of life or death of a potential baby.

Finally, it has to be noted that abortions actually lift a burden off the taxpayer. Right now federal funds are restricted from going towards abortions without certain exceptions (rape, incest, life endangerment). However:

Researchers found that the “discounted future public cost… to be almost 100 times the cost of an abortion”. In fact, “for every public dollar spent to pay for abortions for poor women, more than four dollars is saved in medical and social welfare costs over the next two years.” [2]

Because of this research, there is increasing debate about whether or not funding should be allowed to abortions. However, under Trump’s administration, because President Trump is pro-life, he has elected policies that tip the balance in the opposite direction.

ABORTION STOPS CRIME [3]

Last year, I listened to the audible version of Freakonomics (great book) and was honestly astounded by the creative thinking and answers that Stephen Dubner and Stephen Levitt presented.

For example, part of their central thesis is how crime in America was drastically reduced in the ’90s.

In a 2001 paper by Stephen Levitt and John Donohue of Yale University titled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” noted that males aged 18-24 are the most likely to commit crimes. Crime started to decline in the United States in 1992. The paper suggests that the absence of unwanted children, following the legalization of abortion in 1973 (Roe V. Wade case), led to a drastic reduction 18 years later in 1992, and dropping sharply in 1995. The years 1992-95 would have been precisely the peak crime-committing years of those unborn unwanted children.

2001 Paper on Legalized Abortion

This is because oftentimes the women who use abortions often come from low-income neighborhoods or black communities and would often have difficulty in raising a family; thus, unwanted children are born into chaotic families.

Abortion legalization also changes the kind of children who are born: fewer children are raised in single-parent families, fewer children grow up on benefits, and fewer children grow up in poverty. The Roe V. Wade generation was more likely to graduate from college, make their own living without needing welfare and raise their children alongside a partner. Crime rates fell dramatically around 20 years after abortion was legalized, with many hypothesizing that higher levels of abortion led to lower levels of criminality. [2]

Now, say what you will about the social implications of abortion, but the evidence provided by their paper is pretty clear cut: abortion helped drastically reduce crime in the ’90s. So yes, abortion stopped crime*. I put an asterisk because it refers to unwanted children not being born that refers to the potential crime being reduced. I will discuss the social implications of abortions further down.

RECENT NEWS

So obviously the past few weeks there has been massive outrage from the pro-choice community as several U.S. states take steps towards banning abortions.

Governors in KentuckyMississippiOhio and Georgia have recently approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen in the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant, and Alabama’s governor signed a measure making the procedure a felony in nearly all cases. Missouri lawmakers passed an eight-week ban Friday. Other states, including Louisiana, are considering similarly restrictive laws. [4]

Why this is significant is the sixth-week detection on abortion. I think we (most) can agree that aborting a child in the third trimester should not be allowed and is practically murder*. However, the debate here is whether or not six-weeks-in is justified enough to give the mother ample time to make a crucial decision. Right now, these laws have not gone into effect, and won’t until at least a few months (hopefully not at all though). To clear up any confusion, as of May 2019: WOMEN IN ALL STATES CAN STILL GET AN ABORTION. ABORTION REMAINS LEGAL NATIONWIDE IN THE US.

These laws will undoubtedly receive a lot of legal challenges, but the ultimate goal is clear for the supporters of these new laws: make the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe V. Wade 1973 ruling.

WHAT IS GOING ON DOWN IN ALABAMA?

Alabama’s law goes farther than the others. It makes abortion a felony in nearly all cases [at any stage of pregnancy] and includes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The only exception is when the pregnant woman’s health is at serious risk. [4]

Uh-Oh

Hearing this is a little bit unsettling. Rape. Incest. And at any stage of pregnancy, even within 6-weeks.

If you’ve been on social media or read the news on this, you might have seen some pretty politically charged headlines.

And perhaps the most distressing headline I’ve seen:

Link to Article

The new law would punish doctors with up to 99 years behind bars — decades more than the maximum sentence for those convicted of second-degree rape

Please tell me why we are making abortion worse than rape in the legal system.

Alabama’s law would become enforceable in six months, as will many of the other states. Georgia’s would take effect next year, Jan. 1. I expect all states to be receiving protest of these new laws.

WHY I AM PRO-CHOICE (AND PRO-LIFE)

Look. I understand the economic benefits of abortions. There is an ample amount of compelling evidence for why offering funded abortions for women who need it, particularly poor and black communities, as well as the taxpayer benefit (1 to 4 ratio in future costs). Abortions can benefit society as a whole. I hope some of you can see this evidence as compelling too. But sometimes I understand that economics isn’t enough; after all, here I am, a privileged Chinese-Canadian male talking on a social woman’s issue. So instead of spouting more economics, I hope to compel some of you readers to look at these issues through a humanities lens.

My favorite philosopher is Simone de Beauvoir. Her entire philosophy is based on freedom. And she believes all of humanity would be happier and better off if each of us strives towards genuine freedom not only for ourselves, but also fight so that all of humanity is able to have such liberating freedom. So of course, I have to be pro-choice.  But whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, I hope that we can all agree that there needs to be more debate on these laws that heavily restricts the freedom of women. Did I mention that Alabama’s legislature is only 15% women?

Let’s not get confused. This is completely a woman’s rights issue discussion.

In most of these states, white males are making decisions on women’s body. I know very few pro-life women. That’s just a clear observation. And whether or not you are pro-life or pro-choice, I think we can all agree that men should not have more weight in making legal policies on whether women abide by such rules. Maybe men do have some position, but not 31 of the 35 seats in such a decision.

So basically, yes, I am saying my opinion doesn’t matter nearly as much as any woman, strictly because I am male. However, I do want to be a voice of reason and hope that I can carry some weight in this conversation because I want to stand behind powerful women who are continually fighting for equal rights. I am fighting for my friends, my sister, my future children (maybe). I will fight for every woman.

What Alabama has done in restricting abortion regardless of time or situation is disgusting, to say the least. An 11-year-old should not be legally forced to carry a baby to term when in 2019 we have the technology in the form of a small pill that could potentially divert a young girl’s life completely. Because let’s be honest, you are not pro-life if you think that women, who are genuinely incapable to take care of their unborn and unwanted child, should be legally obligated to give birth. You are simply pro-birth.

These women who experience unwanted pregnancies will give birth to children who are forced to grow up in distressed communities and cause a huge burden on the mother (oftentimes single-mother). These children will be poor, struggle in life, and may divert to crime to get by and very possibly die an early death. So many children (girls mostly) in China and Vietnam are simply abandoned because abortions are not available. This is pro-birth, not pro-life.

To say that I am pro-choice means I am not pro-life is stupid. 

I believe in freedom. AND I believe in liberty in life.

I truly do not believe an abortion at 6-weeks is killing a baby. I don’t think any pro-choice person is out there advocating for this. We’re not just a bunch of baby killers…

THE NEXT BIG QUESTIONS: PERSON THEORY

So the discussion brings us to the person theory—or when does a human life begin? When do we deem someone a person: at fertilization, or at birth? Is the heartbeat law of 6-weeks too quick? Should we look for the cross between an embryo (a bunch of cells) and a fetus (developing body), which occurs around week 8-10? Do we go in either two extremes: that is, completely ban abortions, or do we allow abortions up until the baby is born, anywhere from week 1-40?

I believe abortions are overall good for society. And I, therefore, think women should have maybe a bit longer than 6-weeks to make such a crucial life-changing decision, considering many women are unaware of their pregnancy within just 6-weeks short duration. I genuinely think that there is a weak argument for under 6-weeks pregnancy to be deeming the cluster of as a person, and it’d be almost awkward to say that those cells have the same rights as you and me.

However, I believe two trimesters of 28-weeks is too late into the pregnancy, considering that babies can begin being born around the 24-week mark, or extremely prematurely starting on week 21. According to studies between 2003 and 2005, 20 to 35 percent of babies born at 24 weeks of gestation survive, while 50 to 70 percent of babies born at 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 26 to 27 weeks, survive [5]. Although I know it’s a bit insensitive to comment on behalf of women, I think that if a woman is 20+ weeks pregnant, the central issue is no longer whether an abortion should be conducted (which I think shouldn’t actually be allowed at this stage), but actually, the question should be how can the woman deal with the unwanted child post-birth. I.E. Adoption. Better institutions that help women further carry the baby and complete a smooth transition for the unborn baby can be improved. Or, better support from the government or other institutions to help young mothers or low-income single parents. After all, if you are pro-life, you also should be “pro-helping all mothers carry society forward by giving birth to children who can actually live a sustainable life.” Otherwise, you are simply pro-birth.

So I guess I’m saying that yes, the 28-week duration needs to be reexamined, and 6-weeks is simply too short. The golden time frame falls within the two. And for me, I have to say that the 20-week point seems like a good time. After all, past 20-weeks, you can no longer argue that the baby is just a bunch of cells, as the procedure for abortion often requires the doctor. The fetus can also arguably feel pain. In fact, past 20+ weeks, the fetus now has a (slim) chance of survival outside of the womb [5]and a few weeks later the baby could be born healthily, and so there’d be a pretty strong argument that abortion in this stage would be considered some form of murder.

Should men have any say in all of this? I don’t know. I mean, here I am, writing about this. (If you know me, I like to comment on topics even though I have no real stake. I.E. American politics!). However, to any women reading this, if you think I am a complete imbecile, please come to Canada and slap me if convenient. If inconvenient, come anyway. Ultimately, I think men do need to voice their opinion (at least to some degree, but maybe not carry more weight than women’s voices on laws that affect women). At the end of the day, this is a humanity issue, and we as a humanity need to help each other.

Still, there are so many questions that we need to discuss… And I hope we can discuss these questions in a respectful manner so that we can all be better informed and strive towards a better solution for our generation of women. If anything, I hope that this article serves as a path towards better-informed citizens who can then better address these big issues in a respectful manner.

I don’t want to talk about rape because of how grotesque it is. But I do have to mention it as it is an unfortunate circumstance when it comes to unplanned parenthood. That is why I think Alabama’s law to completely restrict abortion even in cases of rape is completely egregious. As a society, and as a man myself, we need to be better. (I fully understand that men are also sexually assaulted; this is not the time for me to discuss this, however.)

There are a lot of solutions. Some better than others. But all can play a role in the overall issue. Here are just a few:

  • More awareness of how to practice safe sex.
  • More awareness of the issues of what pro-choice vs. pro-life
  • Removing the stigma behind youth sex.
  • Subsidizing safe sex products and contraception.
  • Funding abortions (which is an economically efficient way of reducing social costs)
  • Better safety for women and inclusion to make the best choice
  • Better child-support from fathers, and better support for women who do choose to carry babies to term
  • Planned Parenthood Initiatives and Programs
  • Allowing more women to make laws on women’s bodies
  • Giving a safe space for everyone to help grope towards universal solutions
  • Talking about it!
  • Sharing this article! 🙂

CLOSING REMARKS

Again, as I prefaced: I don’t actually know anything.

I am learning more and more about this topic every day. I’ve spent the last weeks scouring the internet and reading articles, and the past few days doing more intensive research for this article. However, I really don’t know anything.

And so, I hope if you’ve read up to this far, I want to thank you, and I also urge you to approach such controversial topics with similar uncertainty. Only with uncertainty can we strive towards a better consensus for issues.

However, I know that this was a lot to digest, so let me clearly state my position on this topic below:

  • I am pro-choice up to roughly 20-weeks. At 20-weeks, the fetus has a chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors are also required to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to an abortion, as at this stage of development the fetus may be able to feel pain.
  • Past this time, I believe that we as a society should work towards helping the mother carry to full term.
  • I believe that 6-weeks is too short for a woman to make a crucial decision. As well, at this stage, I do not believe there is a valid argument for a personhood theory. I am not religious.
  • I am pro-abortion because I believe it is better for society both economically and socially.
  • I am pro-abortion because I believe in freedom for women to have the choice. Otherwise, women who are under immense pressure may still self-induce abort, which is incredibly unsafe.
  • I believe that there needs to be a discussion made between pro-life and pro-birth.

Expect me to update this post as further developments on these issues come up.

For now, thank you for wanting to be more informed. Please respect my opinions but please feel free to provide your opinions. I want to spark up a discussion. Email me, comment down below or contact me if you have anything to say.

Please share this post if you enjoyed it and think there is some insight worth sharing.


Sources

[1] Economics of Abortion 2003 Paper

[2] Adam Smith Institute: Economics of Abortion

[3] Legalized Abortion and Crime Effect Wikipedia Page

[4] U.S. Abortion Laws Questions

[5] Fetal Viability Wikipedia Page

[6] When does a human life begin? 17-time points

Freakonomics Book

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