In an interview yesterday with WEZS Radio in Laconia, NH, potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum discussed the role of “Abortion Culture” for the failures of our social security system. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, blamed abortions for robbing the nation of 53 million workers who could be supporting retirees. His family, with seven children is “doing our part to fund the social security system.” The former senator noted that he feels the social security system “is a flawed design, period. But having said that, the design would work a lot better if we had stable demographic trends.” During the interview Santorum also stated that “a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion,” a statement that at best, merely attempts to make sense.
So what exactly is “Abortion Culture?” Well, that depends who you ask. Some people hold the view that Abortion Culture is a result of high abortion rates. Others say high abortion rates are caused by Abortion Culture. Others point toward countries like China that systematically use abortion (and sterilization) as a means of population control. So how does the U.S. fit into this mix of varied definitions? To begin answering this question it is important to get an overall idea of where America ranks among countries worldwide with regards to abortion rates. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the U.S. is somewhere in the middle. Countries like The Netherlands have relatively low abortion rates (less than 10 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 per year. The U.S. falls in at just over 20. China is estimated to have around 30 per 1,000 women annually, while Romania and Vietnam, by contrast, are estimated to have at least 80. (Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society and Abortion Worldwide, New York, AGI, 1999, p. 28.) Worldwide then, the U.S. has a relatively low rate of abortion when compared to countries world-wide. It should be noted that the abortion rates cited above have almost no correlation with the legality of abortion in each country.
So if our abortion rates are not high (taken in the context of world-wide comparison), what then defines us as an Abortion Culture? Is it the fact that abortions are legal? If so, every country with legalized abortion, regardless of its abortion rate would have to be labelled an Abortion Culture, so that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Do we have legalized abortions here? Yes…for now, though that right is under constant fire. Relatively speaking, we do not have high rates of abortion. We do not use abortion as a government-enforced means of population control. Abortion is not widely used as a means of contraception. Given these facts, personally (and I recognize many will disagree with me on this), I have yet to find a logical explanation for claiming that we live in an Abortion Culture.
Getting back to Santorum’s remarks, I can’t help but reverse his logic. Perhaps the problem isn’t a lack of children, but rather too many retirees that is to blame. What about the baby-boomers? Could we not more logically look at the sudden rise in the number of births from this generation as the root of unstable population trends? And what happens if all of those women who have abortions instead choose to give birth? Would that really solve our social security problems? Given that the majority of women in the U.S. and worldwide cite the same reasons for choosing abortion (cannot afford to properly care for the child, the need to work to support themselves/their existing children, lack of relationships/healthy relationships with the child’s father, among others), what would the real impact of fewer abortions be in our society? More women unable to work? Well that doesn’t help support the large number of retirees, does it? More families relying on Welfare? Doesn’t sound like a great option. More children born into poverty/homelessness? Not a huge help when it comes to contributing to Social Security is it? Of course, if we were talking about 53 million children born into wealthy families with an abundance of opportunity, access to quality education and healthcare who are most likely to hold steady, high-paying jobs (children of a Senator, perhaps?)…well that might be a different story. Even so, more people…more resource use. We can’t ignore the far-reaching implications of ushering thousands of additional children into our society each year. The environmental impacts and social costs of such a rapidly growing population would be staggering.
In response to Santorum’s argument, then, I guess I’d say he ought to get back to the drawing board if he wants to fix Social Security. Abortion is a right, often a medical necessity, and certainly not the cause of any failure of our programs to support retirees. We have a world-wide over-population problem. Our planet cannot sustain the current rate of population growth. Attempting to increase population in a country that severely over-taxes nearly every resource?…not my idea of a great solution to anything. With regard to “Abortion Culture,” I’d say a significantly higher degree of care should be used in determining if that term can be accurately used to describe our country. As far as I can tell, for the moment anyway, 2011 America…not an Abortion Culture.