Does abortion reduce welfare costs?
November 27, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - Supporters of the Culture of Death tend to lack foresight, and do not seem to possess even a rudimentary understanding of human nature. These defects inevitably lead to many cases of the “law of unintended consequences.”1
One good example of this principle is the ongoing effort by population control groups to flood Africa with condoms in an attempt to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Condom manufacturers refuse to publicize their high failure rate, however, and so African nations where more condoms are used have much higher rates of HIV/AIDS than those nations whose people widely reject their use.2
Another example of this lack of foresight is the claim that, when the State pays for a poor woman’s abortion, it saves a lot of money by avoiding the costs of a delivery and another child added to the welfare system. In fact, this is one of the most persuasive arguments offered by pro‑abortionists in support of Medicaid funding of abortion.
In support of this belief, pro-abortionists grossly exaggerate the costs incurred by a child on welfare. They began using this tactic in their battle against the Hyde Amendment, which banned most federal funding of abortion. Senator Charles H. Percy (R‑Ill.) testified, “If we can avoid a $100,000 cost for a $200 [abortion] investment ― and make a humanitarian investment at the same time ― what sense does it make to say, `We cannot afford $200 for this expenditure [for an abortion]?’”3
Leaders of the pro-abortion movement sometimes accidentally reveal the naked racism behind these comments. Notorious California abortionist Edward Allred said, “When a sullen Black woman of 17 or 18 can decide to have a baby and get welfare and food stamps and become a burden to all of us, it’s time to stop. In parts of South Los Angeles, having babies for welfare is the only industry these people have.”4
Of course none of this is new, and abortion is not the only weapon targeting poor women in the United States in the name of cost-cutting. Donald Kimelman of the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the true goal of our domestic population controllers in a 1990 article ominously entitled “Poverty and Norplant: Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?” He wrote:
As we read these two stories [about Norplant and Black poverty], we asked ourselves: Dare we mention them in the same breath? To do so might be considered deplorably insensitive, perhaps raising the specter of eugenics. But it would be worse to avoid drawing the logical conclusion that foolproof contraception could be invaluable in breaking the cycle of inner city poverty ― one of America’s greatest challenges.
Kimelman went on to suggest that welfare mothers could be implanted with Norplant for free and perhaps receive increased welfare benefits as a reward.5 And speaking of unintended consequences, Norplant was later banned by the FDA for the harm it caused women, resulting in a massive class action lawsuit against Norplant’s producer.
It seems reasonable to ask why, if Kimelman was truly concerned about poverty in general, did he not also recommend the use of Norplant for poor White women?
Others asked this same question. Vanessa Williams, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, called Kimelman’s article, “A tacit endorsement of slow genocide.”6 Four days after Kimelman’s article, Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez sarcastically suggested that contraception would not reduce the underclass quite as fast as “just shooting them.” The Inquirer quickly apologized for Kimelman’s article after a wave of complaints. But the racist and eugenicist thinking of many of those who want to “help” poor women had been exposed once again.
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Abortion As Human Culling
Kimelman was not the only journalist to step on his tongue after the introduction of Norplant. Anthony Bouza, former Minneapolis Police Chief and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, wrote an editorial with the oxymoronic title “A Mother’s Day Wish: Make Abortion Available to All Women.”
He described the “at risk” population as “poor, Black and Indian,” and said that their offspring are “marked for failure.” He went on to say:
When abortions are illegal, poor women deliver and keep their babies. Then they plunk them in front of a TV set, watch them get abused and conditioned to violence by parades of males, and expose them to all the factors the criminologists describe as the precursors to a life of crime … Making abortions freely available to the impoverished young women who produce our criminals is very likely the most important crime‑prevention measure adopted in this country in the last 25 years.7
If Bouza’s allegation is true ― that abortion is our “most important crime‑prevention measure” ― why are 7.2 million adults in prison or on parole or probation, 3.1 percent of all adults in the entire population?8 This is a fourfold increase since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, when only 0.8 percent of all adults in the United States were subject to the criminal justice system. If abortion is so effective at fighting crime, why does the United States possess the dubious distinction of having the largest percentage of its population imprisoned among all the countries of the world, including the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and South Africa?
Don’t expect answers to these questions from abortion advocates ― especially pro‑abortion journalists. They have a very big axe to grind, and nobody had better bother them with the facts.
Taking the Long View
Obviously, an abortion does indeed cost much less than delivery and care for a baby, but as always, the pro-abortion view is extremely short-sighted and completely neglects the future benefits to society provided by a child over his or her lifetime.
To begin with, pro-abortionists invariably assume that welfare children will be “on the dole” until they are eighteen. However, less than five percent of all children born into welfare families will remain on welfare until they are adults. In fact, the average period of welfare dependency for a child is just two years.9
A first-trimester Medicaid abortion currently costs about $515.10 By comparison, the cost of all kinds of public assistance for a child, including prenatal care, delivery and postnatal care, and two years of all types of public assistance for the child is about $22,300.11 So, at first glance, abortion seems to be a very good financial deal indeed for the long-suffering taxpayer.
But hold it ― not so fast. What about the future benefits that a child generates during his or her lifetime?
The Federal, state and local taxes paid by a child and his or her employers during 30 years in the work force amount to about $955,900.12
Pro-abortionists consider only the short-term benefits to the State, which is the difference between the cost of caring for a child and the cost of an abortion, which is ($22,300 – $515), or $21,785; but the long-term benefit to the State of paying for the child’s delivery and care is ($955,900 – $22,300), or $933,600. In other words, the State pays on average $22,300 and gets $955,900 back, a benefit-cost ratio of 43.8 dollars received for every one dollar spent, which is a very good deal indeed.
But this is not the only part of the equation. We must also consider that each person continuously generates wealth during his working career and consumes goods and services that help support the livelihoods of many other people. At current levels, this sum amounts to an average of about $2,764,000 per person.13
Therefore, we see that every person aborted costs society at large a total of about $3,720,000. So, for every single dollar spent on a Medicaid-funded abortion, society loses ($3,720,000/$515) = more than $7,200.
Does anyone other than hardcore abortion advocates think that this is a fiscally sensible or responsible position to take?.
Dr. Brian Clowes is the director of education and research at Human Life International (HLI), the world’s largest international pro-life and pro-family organization. A version of this article appeared in The Wanderer
1 This term originated when the occupying British government became concerned about the proliferation of venomous cobras in Indian urban areas. The government offered a reward for every dead snake brought in, and people began breeding the cobras for extra income. When the British learned of this practice, they discontinued the reward. The breeders then released their thousands of cobras, resulting in the problem being much worse than it was before.
2 Calculations and references are contained in the short book The Case against Condoms. For an electronic copy of this book, e-mail Brian Clowes at [email protected]
3 July 29, 1977 testimony by Sen. Charles H. Percy (R‑Ill.) against the Hyde Amendment, 95th Congress Congressional Record of that date.
4 Abortionist Edward Allred, quoted in the San Diego Union, October 12, 1980.
5 Don Kimelman. “Poverty and Norplant: Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 12, 1990.
6 Clarence Page. “Hope Best Way to Fight Poverty.” The Oregonian, December 31, 1990, page C5.
7 Anthony Bouza. “A Mother’s Day Wish: Make Abortion Available to All Women.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mother’s Day 1990 editorial, quoted in Mary Ann Kuharski. “Aborting the “At Risk” Population: Racism Rears its Ugly Head.” ALL About Issues, Winter 1991, pages 16 and 17.
8 United States Department of Commerce, Census Bureau. Reference Data Book and Guide to Sources, Statistical Abstract of the United States [Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office], 2012 [132nd Edition]. Table 348, “Adults under Correctional Supervision.” The entire Statistical Abstract is on the Census Bureau’s Web site at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/.
9 Greg J. Duncan. Years of Poverty, Years of Plenty [Detroit: University of Michigan Press], 1984, pages 77 and 90.
10 Guttmacher Institute. “Are You in the Know: Cost of Abortion Services in the United States.” The average cost of a first-trimester surgical or medical abortion is shown at $470 at 2009 prices. Updated to 2012 prices, this is about $515. See http://www.guttmacher.org/in-the-know/abortion-costs.html.
11 The cost of delivering a baby averages about $13,000 in 2012 (Cost Helper Web site at http://www.costhelper.com). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program costs: United States Bureau of the Census. Reference Data Book and Guide to Sources, Statistical Abstract of the United States [Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 2012 [132nd Edition], Table 570, “Federal Food Programs: 1990 to 2010.” Women, Infants, Children Program (WIC) costs: 2012 Statistical Abstract, Table 570, “Federal Food Programs: 1990 to 2010.” Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly known as the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program): 2012 Statistical Abstract, Table 565, “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) ― Families and Recipients: 1980 to 2009,” and Table 567, “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) ― Expenditures by State: 2000 to 2009.”
12 2012 Statistical Abstract, Table 475, “Federal Budget Receipts by Source: 1990 to 2011;” Table 475, “Federal Budget Receipts by Source: 1990 to 2011;” and Table 442, “State and Local Governments — Revenue by State: 2008.” Personal expenditures are in Table 677 of the 2012 Statistical Abstract, “Personal Consumption Expenditures by Function: 2000 to 2009.” This Table shows that personal expenditures in 2009 were about 10,001.3 billion dollars. To account for inflation and population growth, which increased about a combined total of five percent per year, this number is about($10,001.3 billion) X 1.05^3 = $11,578 billion in 2012 dollars. If we divide this number by the July 1, 2012 population of the United States, we get ($11,578 billion/316,300,000) = $36,605 of personal expenditures per person annually. The category “personal expenditures” includes many items. Some of these subcategories are “Household and Household Operation,” which includes household furniture, semidurable household furnishings, cleaning and polishing preparations, and household utilities (electricity, water, gas, fuel, oil, coal, and sanitation), and telephone or telegraph. The subcategory “Medical Care” includes drug preparations and sundries, dentists and physicians, health insurance, and hospital costs. The subcategory “Transportation” includes purchase price of new and used vehicles and their upkeep public transportation, and airlines, bus, train, and other fares. The subcategory “Recreation” includes toys, magazines, newspapers, radios and televisions, records, etc. The subcategory “Personal Business” includes attorneys, life insurance, and funeral and burial expenses.