Friday, September 30, 2005

Thinking About Bill Bennett Abortion Comment

Abortion is really a "red herring" issue. It deflects us from discussing the true problem that there are too many people in the world. Over population. Abortion is not a good form of birth control, but there are some deeper demographic issues under the surface of this discussion.

Demographics was touched on during Bill Bennett's now infamous talk show, but emotional baggage around abortion and racism flairs up into a war of sound bytes. Deeper issues of population and demographics get ignored.

Some interesting questions were touched on in that show (from what I read, even though I didn't actually hear the show).

The question of, "how many people are around to pay into the Social Security Trust Fund?" started that whole ball rolling.

Some might argue that we need more births in order to have plenty of younger workers to pay into Social Security as the post war generation retires. This is an interesting thought for demographers and economists to debate.

Then there is the question of whether just "numbers of people" is sufficient as a solution to this equation. What about quality of environment and economic conditions for the next generation that will be paying into the fund?

A book called "FREAKONOMICS" was mentioned. Important questions about the quality of life, for people being born into this world, was brought up.

What if a bunch of unwanted children were born into poverty? Would they add to, or further distract from society and Social Security?

It's an old "quality versus quantity" argument.

There is the contention that crime is actually lower because quite a few of the people who would have been born into problem homes were never born. Do we really want a whole bunch of unwanted babies? These are very important questions.

Then, along came Bennett's "kicker" comment. The one that's got everyone buzzing.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Another valuable point can be discussed behind this comment.

Is there a danger that abortion can be used to "weed out" certain types of people that others might deem as undesirable? Would abortion be more prevalent weeding out children from poor, marginalized or minority peoples?

It reminds me of one day, when I was in college, sitting in the office of the Gay People's Alliance on campus. Someone from the so called "pro life" club got up the courage to wonder into our office with a very thought provoking question.

She ask, "if one could ever determine, before birth, that a fetus would turn out homosexual, wouldn't you worry that a lot of mothers would choose to abort their pregnancies?"

Most of the "politically correct" office staff blew her question off, but I took her question more seriously. We had a good dialog as most of the other office staffers left the room.

These are important ethical questions with out easy, sound byte answers.

It brings me back to my first point that there are too many people in this world, but abortion is a red herring issue.

Ideally, we should all be working toward the reduction of unwanted pregnancies. Birth control, lifestyle choices, family planning, even abstinence can all point to similar goals. Even more acceptance of "alternative lifestyles" can serve to reduce unwanted pregnancy.

In an ideal world, there wouldn't need to be abortions because unwanted pregnancy wouldn't be such a problem.

Abortion is, at best, a poor form of birth control. How one feels about whether it should be legal, or not, may not be as important an issue as the deeper demographic problems revolving around so many unwanted pregnancies.

I am reminded of a wonderful phrase that came from the early pro abortion rights movement. For some reason, the more recent abortion rights advocates hardly ever use this quote. Still, it transcends the contentious abortion debate to a deeper ideal that most folks should agree on.

"Every child should be wanted."

This phrase also can address the issues of neglect and poverty that so many children face in the world. For instance, one can say, "every child should have access to medical care."

Even some of the pro life movement can get on board with this ideal.

There is a similar phrase that President Bush has bounced around as he talks about education.

That phrase says, "No child should be left behind."

Of course one can certainly question whether the concept is working, or whether Bush administration policies will get us there.

Still, in an ideal world, we should be focusing on quality of life rather than just quantity of life. Churning out too many babies is a major world problem.

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