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Does Abortion Really Prevent Child Abuse?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

I hear a lot of calloused arguments in favor of abortion. Most of them come from leftists. Unfortunately, I occasionally hear them coming from self-described libertarians and conservatives. Unlike leftists who are wrong on every issue, the person claiming to be conservative or libertarian is usually right on most issues. So it is worth trying to offer them a respectful and well-reasoned response. Below, I respond to just such a reader. Her words are indented and in italics, mine are not:


I ask pro-lifers: who will take care of all the unwanted babies if we were to ban abortion. (There is never an answer). Will we go back to building orphanages and institutions wherein we stick children until adulthood?

This is simply false. When you ask pro-lifers who will take care of “unwanted babies” we do have an answer, which is pretty straightforward: There is no such thing as an unwanted baby.

Put simply, those willing to adopt a child exceed the number of children aborted in this country every year. The logical error in the reader’s argument is that it is somehow worse to be placed in an orphanage than to be slowly and methodically dismembered. That logical error is compounded by the easily refutable assertion that such an outcome would be reasonably likely.

The evidence of a surplus of willing adoptive parents is not new. The National Committee for Adoption said in a 1990 press release that "infants who are legally free for adoption, regardless of their race or ethnicity” do not have to wait for homes. In fact, there is a long waiting list of screened families who want to adopt even seriously disabled newborns, including babies born with Down Syndrome and spina bifida. An estimated two million families in the U.S. were interested in adopting a child even back in the early 1900s when between 1.5 and 1.6 million babies were being aborted in the U.S. annually. The children waiting to be adopted tend to be older. Babies do not wait to be adopted.


Who will be accountable for all the babies who will be beaten or worse; beaten to death by parents that never wanted them? CPS certainly has never gotten a real foothold in this country, they surely can't/won't help. So, I had this conversation with a friend of a friend just the other day, and when I asked who will be held accountable for the deaths or maiming of babies, her response was “the parent of course”. Indeed. But we still have a DEAD CHILD. Not just a dead child, Mike. A dead child who took how many very painful blows, how many kicks, how many head bangs? People who are beaten die a very painful, very slow death. Who will be held responsible?

This argument is even easier to defeat than the previous one. Simply look at the numbers. Those claiming that abortion is needed to reduce child abuse must contend with the empirical reality that child abuse increased by over 500 percent in the decade following Roe v. Wade. In fact, in less than a decade after Roe, child abuse had already risen by over 500 percent. These stats come right from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This should not come as a surprise. Roe v. Wade said that a woman could defeat the government interest in stopping third trimester abortions if she had a legitimate health interest in obtaining the abortion. On the very same day, the Court released the Doe v. Bolton decision saying that “emotional” and “psychological” factors count as legitimate health interests.


Let me translate that for you: If the prospect of having a child causes a woman emotional or psychological distress she may have the child slowly dismembered in the womb. It is no wonder that child abuse skyrocketed in the aftermath of those two decisions.

Of course, the greater error my reader has made is simply assuming that abortion is not child abuse. This requires rejecting the consensus of the science of embryology that tells us the unborn is a distinct, living, and whole human being from the point of conception. Ultimately, dismembering the unborn in order to prevent child abuse makes about as much sense as decapitating someone in order to prevent tooth decay.

During the early 1990s when our abortion rates peaked at around 1.6 million per year our homicide rates were also at their highest levels. At that time, the annual number of homicides approached 25,000. This means that there were over 60 abortions for every one murder or manslaughter. So the numbers would not justify keeping abortion legal even if it prevented every single homicide – much less the rare parent-on-child homicide preceded by long term physical abuse. The only way the math works is if one engages in anti-science fundamentalism and pretends that the unborn is not a human.

Finally, it makes little sense to probe the reader’s implied assertion that the unborn child feels no pain during the process of dismemberment. It has never been our position that abortion is wrong because it hurts. It is our position that it is wrong because it unjustly kills an innocent human being. Those focusing on the issue of pain would never consent to decriminalizing the rape and murder of women provided that the victims were first drugged thus rendering the act “painless.”


In the final analysis, those who would use the welfare of children to justify elective abortion are guilty of both the abuse of logic and the neglect of facts. It is a crass rationalization for murder that is unworthy of conservatives and libertarians alike.

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