The Economic Impact of Abortion

Judie Brown
by Dennis Howard
May 7, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

Dennis Howard, director of ALL's Associate group The Movement for a Better America, recently received a letter requesting information on the impact of abortion on our tax dollars. Dennis' answer is instructive.

To the editor:

I am an engineer who is interested in stopping abortion. I have been looking for a couple of years for information on the impact of abortion on our tax dollars. I started doing the research myself and realized that I wasn't sure how to find all of the statistical information. I was wondering where I could find a copy of your research and how you adjust for factors like aborted children's income once they hit 18, youth accidents, college education, high school dropouts, etc. Thank you for doing this research.

Reply from Dennis Howard:

Thanks for your questions! Our early research focused on the impact of abortion on downstream tax revenues, but we changed to using gross domestic product (GDP) per capita because that's more indicative of total economic impact. Our principal sources were abortions reported by the Guttmacher Institute - a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood - as published in the U.S. Statistical Abstract going back to 1978. We supplemented this with state data for California, Colorado, and New York going back to 1967 (six years before Roe v. Wade). Two million babies were aborted in these states before Roe. We update this data every year and project it to the current month using regression analysis based on most recent trends. Trend adjustments are made annually based on the newest data.

We use Guttmacher as a source to put our studies beyond challenge from the abortion industry. However, we know these numbers are on the low side because they are based on surveys of abortion providers taken every three to four years, with projections for intervening years using the same kind of regression analysis we use to project the most recent figures. Changes in trend are picked up with each new survey. How much higher might the actual number of abortions be? This number could err by 20 to 30 percent because providers are less likely to report abortions paid for in cash and those with negative outcomes. Former abortion providers like Dr. Nathanson confirm this bias. Center for Disease Control data are even less reliable because many jurisdictions do not legally require reporting. Unfortunately, there is no accurate way to estimate the number of abortions caused by abortifacients - including RU-486 abortions, abortions produced by drugs like the morning-after pill, or by IUDs. Unsurprisingly, sexually active women using these methods may have as many as three to four pregnancies and three to four abortions a year. However, no one can carry three or four pregnancies to term in a single year, so we have to discount its economic impact. Normally, such women might carry a pregnancy to term every two or three years. That would have a measurable economic impact, but it is hard to estimate reliably.

You ask about "aborted children's income once they hit 18, youth accidents, college education, high school dropouts, etc." We avoid that problem by using GDP per capita for each year, which automatically adjusts for these variables. Based on these estimates, abortion has cost us an estimated $45 trillion in lost GDP and that loss continues growing by $2.5 trillion each year. We do not currently include second generation lives missing because their putative parents were aborted, but that number is clearly growing and will add to the future loss in GDP. For example, at least half of the current total of 55 million aborted people would currently be in their child-bearing years. Since the leading edge of the abortion generation has reached age 45, that has at least a 15 percent negative impact on current births. We are tracking this indirect effect and may include it in future reports.

We also study special situations and publish them in separate reports. For example, in New York City, the black abortion rate is 60 percent and the black birth rate has been cut in half over the last 21 years. As a result, blacks are now a shrinking minority in New York City. Indeed, there are now more lives lost annually through abortion in NYC than deaths from all other causes. Because of our research, we strongly disagree with those who dismiss the so-called social issues as irrelevant to the current economic debate. All of the social issues - the 50 percent divorce rate, 1.6 million people in federal and state prisons, huge school dropout rates, out of wedlock births, single parent families, the current epidemic of STDs, high drug addiction rates, the overall decline in the work ethic, etc. - have huge negative economic effects. Together, they are no doubt a far bigger drag on our whole economy than the current financial crisis. As long as they persist, they will remain a major drag on the economy. The question is: What can we do to create a social counter-revolution that can set these things right?

Basically, we need to restore the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." That's the goal we are committed to at the Movement for a Better America. However, a great many of our political, business, education, and even religious leaders are still asleep at the switch or confused about the solutions. Certainly such a counter-revolution is not going to come from the mainstream media, the academic left, pandering politicians, or a corporate environment where the bottom line is the primary benchmark. Well-intended economic solutions from the left or right can't resolve these costly social issues. Such "cures" may help the business environment and ease the job and real estate markets, but they can't solve the underlying social malaise.

Our best hope lies with society's fundamental social and economic unit - the family. Families make up the warp and woof of our social fabric. Their concern for the future of their children gives them a vision beyond the next quarter or the next election. It was this kind of vision that prompted our founders to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to "secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity." If churches, schools, and pro-life, pro-family groups can tap into that same vision, they can change things dramatically for the better. If they succeed, the economy will take care of itself. Meanwhile, we need to be wary of the wolves in sheep's clothing - like Planned Parenthood and self-serving politicians - who try to exploit these concerns and use them to destroy the family and the country's future.