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Thursday, January 17, 20081200577185

Hidden Selection

Stein, R. (2008). Abortions hit lowest number since 1976. Washington Post. January 17, 2008. Available online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/16/AR2008011603624.html?hpid=topnews.

As someone who believes in the equal worth of every human person, this is good news:

The number of abortions performed in the United States dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 -- the lowest level since 1976, according to a new report.

The number of abortions fell at least in part because the proportion of women ending their pregnancies with an abortion dropped 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, hitting the lowest level since 1975, according to a nationwide survey.


Some data:

The total number of abortions among women ages 15 to 44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005, an 8 percent drop that continued a trend that began in 1990, when the number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million, the survey found. The last time the number of abortions was that low was 1976, when slightly fewer than 1.2 million abortions were performed.

The abortion rate fell from 21.3 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2000 to 19.4 in 2005, a 9 percent decline. That is the lowest since 1974, when the rate was 19.3, and far below the 1981 peak of 29.3.

The abortion rate varies widely around the country, tending to be higher in the Northeast and lower in the South and Midwest. The rate in the District dropped 20 percent but remained higher than that of any state at 54.2. Virginia's rate fell 9 percent, to 16.5, while Maryland's rate rose 8 percent, to 31.5.

The proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion also declined, falling from 24.5 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2005 -- a 9 percent drop and down from a high of 30.4 in 1983.


It'd be interesting to see the source of these numbers in more detail.

On first glance, it would appear that abortion is a highly effective informal genetic selection program against political liberals and those of low general intelligence.

Certainly the article implies that "blue states" have higher abortion rates than "red states," and I would guess the politically conservative (who tend to oppose abortion as a lifestyle choice) practice it less than the politically liberal (who tend to support it as a lifestyle choice). Likewise, as a commonly cited reason for abortion is necessity, I would imagine that abortions are more common among the poor than the rich. As wealth correlates with general intelligence, abortion is thus a eugenics program that increases societal general intelligence across generations.

Comments

You've got to let me get all liberal and women's rights-y on you here: while opposing the practice of abortion is a valid choice for an individual (based on, say, an individual's moral stance), one at the same time cannot take this option away from individual women who might (for example) not be able to support a child. First, might the fact that the number of abortions have decreased in the last five years indicate that abortions haven't been as readily available in all states? And though you "imagine" that abortions are more common among the poor, this may not be so: the poor may not have access to the educational resources necessary to understand (1) birth control options, and (2) post-conception options.

Again, it's an individual decision, and should be kept that way. If, however, the anti-abortion crowd really wants to see a reduction in the number of abortions, then they should support proper sex education in public schools, not unscientific, non-psychologically sound abstinence education.

Rant over.

Posted by: fl | Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pronouns can be tricky, which is why I'd be careful with the sentence "it's an individual decision."

The term "abortion" includes two qualitatively different procedures: one is the a form of post-conception birth control that seeks to prevent the emergence of a human person, the other is a pre-birth infanticide that seeks to terminate a living human person.

Conception largely is an individual decision. So is infanticide. But the individual most affected is different.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, January 17, 2008

"On first glance, it would appear that abortion is a highly effective informal genetic selection program against political liberals and those of low general intelligence."

Doesn't this assume that every abortion = one less baby? That is not necessarily true. Take a hypothetical example - a woman gets pregnant while 20 years old. In one universe she has an abortion. Then when 30 years old, decides she wants a kid, so she has a baby. In another universe, she doesn't have an abortion, and has a baby while 20 years old. Thus despite her having an abortion, there was no selection against her genes because she passed on her genes in the same amount in both cases despite having an abortion in one case.

Posted by: Adrian | Thursday, January 17, 2008

"one is the a form of post-conception birth control that seeks to prevent the emergence of a human person, the other is a pre-birth infanticide that seeks to terminate a living human person."

Are you referring to dilation-and-excavation (DNX), the procedure termed "partial birth abortion" for political purposes? (Which, incidentally, is one of the safest procedures in the second term of pregnancy. Women in the second term of pregnancy are otherwise left with options that carry a lot more risk.) Granted, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with a friend or relative's decision to abort a fetus at six or seven months, but I would never suggest that my personal uncertainty means that women's bodies should be legislated.

In any case, the question of when "life" begins should be left to scientists and medical doctors, not to religious leaders and politicians.

Posted by: fl | Friday, January 18, 2008

"Are you referring to dilation-and-excavation (DNX), the procedure termed "partial birth abortion" for political purposes?"

I am referring to any abortion procedure that executes after the fetus achieves personhood, which has traditionalyl been placed at the quickening (fetal agency) but probably should be placed no earlier than the emergence of working memory (not sure how to test that, though Carl Sagan has proposed a specific method [1]).

"Granted, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with a friend or relative's decision to abort a fetus at six or seven months, but I would never suggest that my personal uncertainty means that women's bodies should be legislated.

In any case, the question of when "life" begins should be left to scientists and medical doctors, not to religious leaders and politicians."

Why, if the deepest purpose of the state is to prevent murder?

[1] http://exmormon.org/boards/honestboard/messages/5266.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, January 18, 2008

I've always thought of abortion (and to some degree birth control) as a sort of open-source eugenics, this sort of supports that terminology.

I suppose the question is - Does abortion count as evolution, in a broad sense in some way?

Posted by: Steve French | Friday, January 18, 2008

"open-source eugenics".... I like the term.

Evolution is change in frequencies of some variation over time, so abortion is clearly a mechanism that enables evolution, in the same way that starvation, plague, famine, war, increased sex drive, etc, are.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, January 19, 2008

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