Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Roe Effect

James Taranto at Best of the Web on Opinion Journal has been talking about the Roe effect for a while now:
Our theory is that abortion is making America more conservative than it otherwise would be.

We base this on two assumptions. First, that liberal and Democratic women are more likely to have abortions. Second, that children's political views tend to reflect those of their parents--not exactly, of course, and not in every case, but on average. Thus abortion depletes the next generation of liberals and eventually makes the population more conservative. We call this the Roe effect, after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

It's not the sort of thing that should make conservatives happy. If conservatives are gaining in relative numbers, we should find it appalling that it's happening because of state-sanctioned murder, no matter that we've done our best to fight it every step of the way. While Mr. Taranto initially presented this as a theory sans facts, he's begun to gather facts and figures which back him up, as his most recent column shows. Personally, I found this hard to believe initially, especially since the impression I have is that most women who have abortions are teenage girls. This skews things significantly, since many of them are scared and seeking a quick solution rather than sticking with their values. Many are pressured into it by boyfriends and parents. Those who do carry the pregnancy to term often give the baby up for adoption, and the political beliefs of the adoptive parents aren't correlated to those of the birth mother. Again, these are impressions rather than hard numbers. However, Mr. Taranto's column does show a correlation between liberal beliefs and abortion rates for girls aged 15-19 on the state level. This is something I can more easily believe, since we're now talking a correlation between the society's attitude toward abortion and the rate at which pregnant teenagers attain abortions. A frightened teenager is more likely to act against her personal beliefs and get an abortion if the community in which she lives is accepting of the practice. I think Mr. Taranto's conclusion that the red states are growing in population more rapidly than the blue states may very well be the case. As a reader points out in a newer James Taranto column,
The main impact in liberal states is the invisible impact on representation, because they are growing more slowly than conservative ones. Between the 1990 and 2000 censuses alone, six of 20 Gore states lost representatives, and only one (California) gained. The result is that Gore would lose 278-260 under new apportionment; the margin in 2000 (before a faithless District of Columbia elector abstained) was 271-267.

Working backward, if he carried the same states, Gore would have won under the apportionment systems of 1980 (271-267) and 1970 (278-260). That's also a 36-member swing in House representation for the red states after Roe, which is greater than the Republican margin of control.

I'll need to work through the numbers more carefully (my initial, admittedly naive, calculations aren't in line with the dramatic shift in reapportionment). While this is certainly nothing to gloat over, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that abortion, like many of the great evils of the twentieth century, is ultimately self-defeating.

New Post: I calculate the change in electoral votes due to the Roe effect above.

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